By Jan Bennett
Pittsburgh Dilworth Elementary, A Bright Spot for Pennsylvania
School Spotlight takes a peek at what one school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is doing to become a High Opportunity School and earn a Bright Spot in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. (To read original article in its entirety, click here.)
Pittsburgh Dilworth Elementary uses an arts-infused approach to help educate their Pre-K through fifth grade students. According to information gathered by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, it is an arts-focused magnet school that has recently increased some students’ reading scores by 20 points in the past five years. This success is due, in part, to the school’s Principal Dr. Monica D. Lamar.
According to Lamar, she had her own struggles with reading as a student. However, working with a school-based reading specialist – combined with her participation in the arts – helped her find success in school. Her experience has manifested into the success that Pittsburgh Dilworth students and staff are experiencing today.
She believes students thrive when given diverse learning opportunities. Therefore, the elementary school has a “full complement of art, music, gym, library and academic teachers on board, as well as two artists-in-residence who infuse the arts throughout the curriculum,” according to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The school also utilizes the “Response to Intervention and Instruction Strategy.” This is a system of intervention curriculum with varying levels that uses frequent assessment to monitor students’ progress.
These children read throughout the day and have a goal of reading at least 30 books every year. This significant amount of reading for these youngsters is rewarded with positive accolades and fun trips.
In addition, these students are learning how “to manage stress and take care of themselves.” One strategy teachers use at test time is to let their students go outside and run after Morning Meeting (complete with their principal running with them!) In preparation for tests, they’re encouraged to drink lots of water and calm down with yoga breathing. And as a special treat students receive three tiny mints that also help stimulate their mental state during tests.
Lamar and her staff have helped create a great and fertile environment for learning at Pittsburgh Dilworth. Through providing support, promoting communication, and offering diverse learning opportunities, these students are learning – not only reading- but invaluable life lessons that will serve them well in their lives.
The arts have be proven time and again the importance it plays in the lives of people, especially children. Unfortunately, the arts are disappearing in budgets, but the need is not. It might have been a bit of a sacrifice for Lamar to substitute administrative staff for a chance to bring on staff for the much-needed “diverse learning opportunities,” but she believed in her choices, and they have paid off. There are quite a few other schools facing these challenges, and we want to know some other approaches being used to bring about success for students. Use the box below to share your stories that we would love to hear.