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New York Mills Elementary School teachers and staff gather for a photo in the Elementary Media Center last week. The teachers had 100 percent attendance at the Freshwater Education District RELI Retreat held in August.

Teachers participate in RELI Program

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New York Mills Elementary teachers had 100 percent attendance at the Freshwater Education District -RELI (Reforming Effective Literacy Instruction) Retreat held in August, showing their commitment to the job-embedded professional development initiative.

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The RELI Program provides New York Mills Elementary School support in developing, implementing and sustaining research-based, instructional practices in kindergarten through grade 6 classrooms for the purpose of improving student achievement in reading.

New York Mills Elementary teachers assessed the needs of professional development in the school based on student assessment data, teacher surveys and self-study surveys. The results from this school data will guide the school's administration and leadership team in developing a site-specific action plan for RELI. This will be done with support from Rynell Schock, RELI Coordinator; and Lisa Novak, Literacy Coach.

An important piece of the program is the implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which were started Sept. 23 in the elementary. The teachers have all committed to participating in PLCs, which emphasize research-based, data-driven instruction.

PLCs give teachers an opportunity to get together and study job-imbedded professional development.

"We're concentrating on reading because reading is so important," Novak said. "Effective instruction in reading can also mean effective instruction in science and math."

Novak, who previously taught kindergarten and first grade in Menahga, is in her first year as a literacy coach through Freshwater.

Part of what Novak is doing is modeling lessons in the classrooms with the teachers and working next to them to help implement strategies.

Novak said she is impressed with the 100 percent buy-in to the RELI Program by the NY Mills teachers and staff.

Todd Cameron, Superintendent of Schools, likes the opportunities the program gives teachers in the classroom.

"Teachers having the opportunity once a month to research and discuss best practices to improve student achievement is a very positive experience for our teachers and students," Cameron said. "The RELI Program allows our teachers to review what the new research says about learning and then implement those strategies in the classroom.

"Good readers are essential for success in learning and the RELI Program allows our teachers to better understand and implement research-based reading strategies."

(Information provided by elementary school staff.)

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