Making a plan
Once these results were identified, coupled with the fact that no
movement was made to transition into the Common Core Standards (the
new Illinois State Standards), the process of researching potential
options to address the issue began (i.e. colleagues, internet
searches, professional organizations, etc.).
Interest in an Authentic Literacy Program developed after we saw the
data behind it, specifically in regard to components, past
results/proven track record, contacts, etc. We did this with the
Common Core Standards in mind. This led us to observe a presentation
by Christy Moore and Ryan Glaze, in Chicago, IL. A follow-up with
several emails outlining specifically the issues facing Hartem, and
a more detailed analysis about our students, staff, community, etc.
were given to Christy and Ryan. A face-to-face meeting followed and
an action plan was developed.
The plan included identification of our problem/issue, goals,
professional development, timelines, and budget. At this point, the
staff was not included in the process because the previous years’
test scores were so low we felt we needed immediate action and it
was summertime. However, we quickly began the process of bringing
all stakeholders on board to help foster a sense of collaboration
and a sense of shared purpose.
A written evaluation plan created a shared understanding of the
purpose, fostered transparency to stakeholders and decision makers,
which increased buy-in and acceptance of the program. Sharing the
plan facilitated a smooth transition, and much more.
Turning things around takes shape
Our teachers and staff bought in to the Authentic Literacy Program
quickly. The key component in our implementation was the
professional development provided to our staff. This came in various
forms - team leaders, group presentations, individual meetings, site
visits, book studies, chat room sharing, etc. The administration and
the team leaders also had a week of training during the summer
In addition, every 'School improvement day' and 'Teacher institute
day' was devoted to the implementation of this program. We also held
faculty meetings before and after school for our book studies and
Curriculum consultant Christy’s commitment was vital for the buy-in
by the staff. The monthly visits were varied and had a different
focus each time. No one played the blame-game and the direction was
on improving student achievement. The vision of higher student
achievement was supported by the Board of Education and the
To make the program ours, we came up with a name - “HARTEM LIFE” -
How Authentic Reading Touches Every Mind and Literacy Is For
HARTEM LIFE has been a big part of transitioning our students to a
culture of reaching their full potential.
Implementing a solid plan
As a follow-up to the implementation of our new Authentic Literacy
Program, after one year Hartsburg-Emden was named in the “Top Ten
Most Improved Schools” for Grade Schools, Junior High Schools, and
High Schools in the state of Illinois. This was announced on the
same website, schooldigger.com, that had ranked us so low the
previous year. The teachers’, staff, and students’ hard-work and
commitment to the new Hartem Life Authentic Literacy Program has
really shown some great results.
We have more to do. When compared to several local schools, we
had moved to the middle the group. Our goal was to move to the top.
Christy Moore and our staff continue to work to define Readers
Workshop skills, while implementing the Writers Workshop skills.
[to top of second column]
Reading, Writing, and Discussions are the key components to our
program. Students also have many choices and each child has an
individual reading level to provide appropriate rigor.
As a follow-up to year two, our students performed near the State
average on the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers) Exam. They also performed at the top of the
same group of local schools.
A big congratulations to the teachers, staff, and students of
Hartsburg-Emden, as they continue to show improvement.
As we move forward, we are placing a premium on our staff and
personnel to prepare students for a higher range of academic
achievement on state standardized tests. As such, conversations over
academic rigor in our schools have continued to occur. The
development and appropriate best practices for curriculum and the
knowledge and skills needed for student’s academic success are all
considered. The staff considers different teaching tools to use so
they can support their students to ensure that they are ready to
achieve at these higher levels.
An academically rigorous learning environment is one in which each
child is expected to learn at high levels in order to reach their
full potential. What is more amazing, we managed to do this as the
State has continued to place additional mandates on schools, while
continuing to prorate the funding (not give 100% of the funding).
Reductions of cost and staff had to be made as well.
However, as a small rural school in central Illinois,
Hartsburg-Emden has much to offer our students. All students are now
being exposed to a strong Authentic Literacy Program. They also have
opportunities to participate in many different extracurricular
activities they might not get in larger districts. Our staff has the
opportunity to get to know each student and provide a caring
environment for them.
We have much to celebrate and much to offer! There are so many, many
people that volunteer their time to help in so many different ways.
- The Hartem Community Club (the Parent Teacher Organization
for K-8) has been a terrific organization helping us with many
opportunities (class materials, class parties, fieldtrips, etc.)
for our students.
- We have a very strong FFA Program and an alumni association
that supports their efforts.
- The Hartsburg-Emden community is very supportive of its
school and a staff that will continue to put our student’s
interests first as we move forward.
School pride is back on the rise.
It is a GREAT day to be a STAG!!