CSU Garners $1.5 Million Grant To Improve Reading With Technology

Columbus, GA - Columbus State University's College of Education has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant to teach technologically based techniques aimed at improving reading skills in West Central Georgia.

The grant came just in time as the college already has begun professional development programs with regional school district partners. For example, every Pre-K through fifth-grade teacher in the Chattahoochee County school system and every Pre-K through second-grade teacher in the Putnam County system are currently enrolled at CSU to add a reading specialization to their education.

The two counties are among CSU's partners in the project, which includes the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Educational Service Agency, two software development companies and 12 of West Central Georgia's school systems. Awarded through the college's Educational Technology Training Center, the U.S. Department of Education's Teachers Technology Program Grant will target reading deficiency, which is the most urgent need in many surrounding counties, said center director Elizabeth Holmes.

The percentage of adults in sections of West Central Georgia that do not graduate from high school is about twice the national average. 'Too often, the cause of this academic failure begins with reading difficulties.' Holmes said.

To combat the problem, CSU experts are taking a three-pronged approach:

* Revise the curriculum for teachers-to-be in the undergraduate program to reflect new national reading standards and take better advantage of research-based instruction and available reading diagnostic technology.
* Train graduate students to be online mentors with teachers throughout the community, to help working teachers take advantage of online programming and software designed to identify problems and develop individualized solutions.
* Reach out to teachers in qualified local schools to teach them how to use the latest technology to test childrens reading levels and use that data to develop customized reading programs for each child or group of children.

'Approaching the reading challenge from three angles encourages systemic change. The beneficiaries of improved reading instruction will be the children in West Central Georgia who will have greater success in school when they become competent readers.' Holmes said.

She said Web-enhanced learning tools can make a difference, if the technology is available in the classrooms and the teachers know how to use it. For instance, new diagnostic software is available to help teachers assess students reading skills, analyze and interpret results, and tailor a course of study to reinforce specific areas of weakness.

The $1.5 million to implement such programs is the most recent in a string of grants awarded to CSU's College of Education to further the use of technology in the classroom. Holmes said there has been a logical progression in the work of CSU's Educational Technology Training Center. First, the focus was on educating the teachers, which was aided in 1999 with federal grants totaling more than $1.7 million. Now, the focus takes the technology where it is needed most - into the classrooms to help children learn.

'This grant is another stellar example of CSU's partnership with its surrounding communities,' said Katheryn Fouche, PhD, executive director of the university's Centers of Excellence. 'The Educational Technology Training Center has worked collaboratively with the College of Education to provide a state model in technology preparation for teachers. We appreciate their hard work and commitment.'

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Contact: Elizabeth D. Holmes, director of CSU's Educational Technology Training Center, 706-565-3645 or holmes_elizabeth@ColumbusState.edu