A new way of organizing parent-teacher conferences is leading to major growth toward a Cassville-area school’s reading goals.

Hamilton Crossing Elementary School was one of four schools in Georgia selected to participate in the state’s Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) program for the 2018-2019 school year, Assistant Principal Amy Goff said.

The scores from the assessments of students’ mastery of basic skills showed every grade level increased toward set reading goals and “further indicates that APTT is having a positive impact on student learning in our school,” she said.

Goff said scores from a student literacy assessment called DIBELS showed a 10 percent increase from the beginning of the year to mid-year.

The same scores in 2017-2018 showed only a 2 percent increase during the same time period, Goff said.

Kindergarten through second-graders showed a 133 percent increase in mastery of skills, with first-graders demonstrating the most growth at 200 percent, on results reported between the first two meetings of the program, Goff said.

For example, the first-grade reading goal focuses on sight words. First-grade students doubled the average amount of sight words they mastered between the beginning of the year and December, said school system spokesperson Alisha Evans.

Third- through fifth-graders showed a 9 percent increase in mastery of reading skills, she said.

The school located near Cassville in central Bartow was selected before the current school year from among a number of applicants for participation in the program, a spokesman said.

Its selection included ongoing training and support from a Georgia Department of Education family engagement specialist.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, “The APTT Model elevates the efforts of traditional parent-teacher conferences by inviting all families of the same classroom teacher to meet together rather than individually.”

Goff said the program was “a model for developing parent-teacher partnerships to better support students’ learning.”

Education Department specialist Susan Holcomb said parents participate in periodic classroom meetings where they learn about their students’ academic progress on a grade level skill that is among the school’s academic improvement goals.

Teachers then provide parents with training, practice opportunities and materials they can use to practice the skill at home, Holcomb said.

She said the model “provides a unique approach to engaging families in the education of their children.”

Hamilton Crossing completed two out of three scheduled APTT meetings this school year with 100 to 200 parents and guardians in attendance at each session, Evans said.

“Parents are reporting that they feel more informed and empowered in supporting their child’s education,” Goff said in a news release.

“The parent-teacher-student partnerships have placed learning as the top priority at home and at school. Goal setting, data analysis, and instructional strategies are tackled as a united team to ensure that all students are learning at high levels,” she said.

“We encourage all parents to participate and look forward to the continued growth in student learning.”

The state education department must approve the addition of schools. Bartow school district leaders hope to add Allatoona Elementary School to the program next school year, Evans said.

The APTT Model was designed by Maria Paredes of WestEd, a nonprofit research, development and service company.

The Georgia Department of Education partnered with WestEd before the 2014-2015 school year. Ten schools participated in the program in the first year of the program which sought to train and support Title I schools “to improve student outcomes through parent and teacher collaboration.”

This year, APTT is being implemented in almost 60 schools in 18 districts throughout the state, a release stated.

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