LaGRANGE — Troup County School System will move forward with a plan to contract 33 consultants to coach and advise all educators in the system, and purchase two programs to use for students falling behind in English.
The Board of Education on Thursday approved the system to pay a total $701,825 to the International Center for Leadership in Education, or ICLE, for consultants to spend three days during the next school year training all educational staff on methods intended to help them more effectively teach rigor and relevance in classes. It also includes consultants spending six days with central office administrators and four days with school-level administrators for leadership training.
The board passed the measure 6-1 with board member Ashley Adams opposed. Adams made an initial motion to table the proposal until next month for further consideration, but the motion died when no other board members would support it. A second motion to accept the proposal passed.
As part of the plan, each of the 33 consultants will be assigned to train 30 to 40 educators, and school administrators would be part of those training sessions in addition to their four days of leadership training.
The plan follows a presentation to the board last week by ICLE founder and President Willard Daggett that included a recommendation that the system needs to improve rigor and relevance in classroom teaching. The Board of Education in August voted to hire ICLE to conduct a literacy study, needs-assessment study, strategic planning and ongoing advisory services for a total $85,400, which does not include the $701,825 the board approved Thursday for next school year’s training.
Schools Superintendent Cole Pugh said the system currently has $167,000 in funds budgeted for professional development that would go toward the $701,825 total.
Pugh recognized that people may not see the consultants as necessary and question why the school system doesn’t do the professional development internally.
“We don’t have the expertise to do it ourselves,” he said bluntly during an interview with the Daily News on Tuesday.
“We can buy teachers a book, give it to them and spend a lot less money, but that’s not really very effective,” he said. “Or we could get a few consultants and let four or five teachers from every campus come hear that and go back to their campuses and present it. It would be less money, but that has proven to not be as effective. So this is every campus, every teacher, would be with a consultant.”
He said the administrative training also helps administrators ensure the rigor and relevance methods are being followed.
“… That is a missing piece of professional development a lot of times … the follow up and the monitoring,” Pugh said.
The board also approved in a 6-1 vote Thursday on a proposal to purchase instructional programs Read 180 and System 44 aimed at students who need intervention for reading. Adams opposed the measure due to its cost.
“I can’t support this at this time, I feel like it’s too much money for 2,700 children initially,” Adams said before the board voted. “And I think it’s an excellent program. You’ve (staff) done a great job researching it, I’m not arguing with that, I just feel like we need to focus on all students first and have quality reading for all students before we focus on intervention.”
The plan calls for spending $660,513.50 this year and $660,513.50 next year for the programs, which would put the school system’s cost at a little more than $1.32 million, and it will seek grants for the same amounts — $660,513.50 this year and $660,513.50 next year — from the Callaway Foundation to pay the difference, for a total price tag of a little more than $2.64 million. The cost is based on the number of students anticipated to use the program.
The school system has four tiers of reading proficiency: tier 1 is on track, tier 2 is for student who need some intervention to catch up, tier 3 is for students who need more significant intervention and tier 4 is for students who need special instruction. Staff estimates about 2,205 students in the school system need tier 2 intervention and about 510 students need tier 3 intervention, said Karen Cagle, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and professional learning.
The new programs would implement a wide-scale standardization for reading intervention programs for students in tiers 2 and 3. Cagle on Monday noted ICLE’s study of Troup County schools concluded it needs to increase English language arts comprehension.
Once the school system purchases the programs, it owns them to use perpetually, but would still pay an annual maintenance fee, Pugh said.
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.