Scott County School District is geographically located in East Central Mississippi and supports four elementary schools: Lake Elementary School, Morton Elementary School, Sebastopol Attendance Center, and Scott Central Attendance Center.
The student population consists of approximately 4,000 students, 49% of whom are white, 39% are black, and 9% are Hispanic. Scott County is rated as a “B” district in Mississippi, ranking 51st among the 143 districts included in the Mississippi Department of Education’s Accountability Report. The district holds an 85.9% 4-year graduation rate, which is above the statewide rate of 80.8%. Scott County’s dropout rate of 7.0% is also below the state average of 11.8%.
The District was seeking a solution for students whose reading performance was signiﬁcantly below their potential, as perceived by their teachers. Many of these students held outside diagnoses of dyslexia and demonstrated poor reading performance relative to other academic indicators.
Previous resources had been utilized with most of the student participants. However, each of the students performed below the national average in reading.
Scott County did not make any additional changes to the curriculum speciﬁc to the STEP student participants. As a result, a determination was made to compare student outcomes against their own performance on benchmark testing in previous years.
Scott County School District adopted language to their district policy that every student with a dyslexia diagnosis or ruling would be placed into STEP. Students were also eligible for participation if they failed the district dyslexia screener in multiple areas and/or the students were placed in Tier III on the district’s multi-tier system of support (MTSS).
Principals procured this information and submitted requests to add students to the district Curriculum Director who allocated seats for STEP to those students after validating requests.
15 students participated in STEP during the 2015/16 school year, the ﬁrst year of implementation at Scott County School District. Of the 15 students, 4 attended Sebastopol Elementary, 2 attended Morton Elementary, 5 at Lake Elementary, and another 4 at Scott Central Attendance Center. The students ranged from 2nd to 5th grades.
All 15 of the original student participants continued STEP during the 2016/17 school year, and an additional 7 students were added to the program, 4 of whom started at the beginning of the school year and 3 of whom started STEP in the middle of the school year (December or January). Of the 7 students, 1 attended Sebastopol Elementary, 5 attended Morton Elementary, and 1 attended Scott Central Attendance Center, all ranging from 2nd to 5th grades.
Of the student participants, 14 were boys and 8 were girls. Nineteen of the student participants were white, 2 were black, and 1 was Hispanic.
All of the students were classiﬁed as having “free or reduced lunch” status.
Students exited the buses and went to work with STEP Coaches immediately after entering the school at the beginning of each day. This helped with getting the students’ days started right away and helped them focus before entering their classrooms. Incentives were oﬀered for a job well done after exercises were completed.
STEP exercises revolved around specials, so the STEP schedule was a bit more ﬂexible. In order to accommodate this type of scheduling more STEP Coaches were trained.
At the most rural school in Scott County implementing STEP, students ate breakfast and then went directly to their STEP Coaches to complete the exercises before going to class. To meet the challenge of encouraging students to attend their sessions, STEP Coaches oﬀered incentives like stickers which encouraged students to complete STEP exercises.
STEP sessions were scheduled like a special (gym, music, etc.). Students involved in diﬀerent programs left their classrooms at speciﬁed times, so STEP Coaches went to retrieve the kids and discussed areas for improvement during their walks to and from the STEP room. The time with STEP Coaches was very personalized because of this system.
Scott County School District recorded each student’s reading scores on the Renaissance Learning Star Reading Assessment and reported the outcomes using benchmark testing at the beginning and end of the school year during which students participated in STEP.
The data from the Star Reading report was compiled to generate a meaningful average of students’ Grade Equivalent (GE) changes from the beginning to the end of the school year. The year before STEP was implemented, the students’ GE improvements averaged 0.593 year’s growth. The following year - when STEP was implemented for these same students - the GE improvements averaged 0.887 year’s growth, more than a 49% increase in GE growth over the previous year.
Second year results for the original cohort of students showed a continued acceleration of growth of 0.88, or a 48.3% acceleration in growth over the base year (before STEP was implemented for these students).
Student average grade equivalent scores dropped during the summer before participating in STEP. The ﬁrst cohort of STEP participants showed no appreciable decline in grade equivalent scores during the summer after their ﬁrst year to participate in STEP—even though none of the student participants continued STEP during the summer.
Considering only the students who started their ﬁrst year of STEP during the Fall of 2016, Cohort 2 showed a baseline growth rate in average grade equivalent changes during the 2015/16 school year, on average, of 0.025, essentially ﬂat or no growth.
During the ﬁrst year of STEP, grade equivalent growth among these students increased from 0.025 to 0.675. The 0.65 increase represents a 2600% acceleration in growth.
Cohort 3 consists only of those students who started STEP mid-school year 2016-2017 during the months of December or January. Midyear benchmark testing results were utilized to show the before and after impacts of STEP during the ﬁrst 6 months of participation.
Baseline growth showed this cohort of students had 0.6 average reading growth during the year previous to starting STEP. During the ﬁrst 6 months of participation in STEP, growth accelerated to 1.133, representing an 88.9% acceleration of growth.
Speciﬁcally, growth accelerated from an increase of 0.4 during the ﬁrst half of the school year (August through December) to an increase of 0.733 during the second half of the school year (January through May). This represents an 83.3% acceleration in reading grade equivalent growth from Fall 2016 (before STEP) to Spring 2017 (during STEP).
Results from Cohorts 1, 2, and 3 were combined to compare changes in reading grade equivalent scores for all STEP participants regardless of which academic year was their ﬁrst year participating in STEP. The grade equivalent growth from the year before STEP (baseline year) was compared to the students' grade equivalent growth at the end of their ﬁrst completed year of STEP.
For the combined cohorts 1, 2, and 3, reading grade equivalent growth on Star benchmark testing showed a 0.491 increase during the year before STEP. During their ﬁrst year of STEP, this combined cohort accelerated to 0.882 grade equivalent reading growth, representing a 79.6% acceleration in growth, on average, after one year of participation in STEP.
The personalized STEP Program and one-on-one assistance excite our students as they begin each day competing with themselves. As core skills of balance, eye tracking, and coordination improve, their conﬁdence levels increase. When conﬁdence rises, the students begin to see academic growth and improvement with physical ﬁtness. Every child wants to be seen by their teachers and peers as a success. STEP provides all of our participants with a sense of belonging to an elite group and experience. Therefore, our faculty and the program send a message of urgency to our students to step it up to meet or exceed their personal and grade-level goals in the pursuit of college and career readiness.
I have enjoyed working with the students enrolled in the STEP program, and seeing their progress in academics. STEP has helped the students become more conﬁdent and more engaged in the classroom.
I wish you could have been at our school awards day program to see my 5th grade child beam as he received and all “A” award and an Accelerated Reader award. He has gone from a student who struggled to make high F's on his report card to a student who received an all “A” award. We are so thankful and blessed for the opportunity to have our son participate in this program.
STEP’s physical literacy program gives students a voice in their classrooms and at home, which they never knew they had. Our students are more aware in their classrooms, they retain information better, they are more outgoing, and they love the program!
As the District STEP Manager, I have the privilege of visiting with all the schools and the students in Scott County. Each child's story is diﬀerent. Some struggle with behavior, attendance, or grades, while others just have a short attention span. All of the students want to be at school and want to be successful; however, something is standing in their way. STEP has taken this obstacle out of the way for students. STEP uses physical literacy to create new pathways for our children, and we can see improvements in attendance, grades, and over a year's worth of reading growth! This program has given our students hope!