Thursday, March 5, 2015

College of Education’s DREAMS Grant Sees Positive Results in LMSD Schools

The Dillard’s Reading, Enrichment, Arts, Mathematics, and Science (DREAMS) After-school and Summer Program is making big waves across the Louisville Municipal School District (LMSD). Dr. Teresa Jayroe, Associate Dean in the College of Education (COE) and Principal Investigator on the DREAMS grant, explained that DREAMS was started in 2013 in honor of the late Dr. Susan Gregory Dillard a longtime LMSD school teacher and Mississippi State University graduate. The DREAMS program has provided over 200 students in the LMSD with the extra attention they need to improve their reading and mathematics skills during the crucial learning times of Kindergarten through 4th grades.

The grant, worth 1.9 million dollars over five years, has provided in-school and after-school interventions to students in the LMSD including Fair Elementary, Louisville Elementary, and Nanih Waiya and Noxapater Attendance Centers. The overall goal of the program is to improve the students’ skills in reading and mathematics.

The in-school interventions occur daily with each interventionist teaching four to five students in 45-50 minute time slots. The lessons are timed and planned according to ‘Sonday System’ and are enhanced by activities developed by Angela Mulkana, COE lecturer and Co-PI. Mrs. Mulkana explained, “Students work on reading skills every day by reading passages to work on fluency and comprehension.” In addition, the 12 interventionists participate in targeted professional development each week.

Students participating in the program are grouped together from the same classrooms so they never miss core mathematics and reading instruction and instead, gain extra enrichment. The interventionists provide the students with hands-on learning experiences to enhance their attention and understanding.

Principal of Louisville Elementary Belinda Swart said, “The improvement of the students involved with DREAMS is great for the district. The everyday intense intervention provided to them by the program has produced great results for the students’ test scores.”

The after-school program is similar to in-school; but in addition, 4th grade students are invited to participate, and each child is provided a snack. The students also participate in mathematics and literacy instruction, and character education and development, art, and music during the after-school program. Dr. Rebecca Robichaux-Davis, Co-PI and associate professor, said, “DREAMS after-school participants engage in standards-based, problem-based mathematics activities that develop their conceptual understanding of mathematics content.”

“The DREAMS program is a really positive thing,” said Jan Collier, literacy coach for the LMSD. “When the students come to their interventionists, you can tell they’re excited. DREAMS is bridging the gap to help students develop their best character and work ethic,” said Collier.

Student selection for the DREAMS program is based primarily on test scores and teacher
recommendations. “We’re beginning to target students we know can improve from the program, and since the program’s implementation, our percentage of students below their respected reading proficiency levels has steadily decreased,” said Swart. Mrs. Donna Shea, COE Director of the Office of Clinical, Field-based Instruction, Licensure, and Outreach and Co-PI, commented, “The DREAMS program is assisting classroom teachers in ensuring that students are ‘learning to read’ on grade level by third grade so that they can more easily ‘read to learn’ in upper elementary, middle school, and high school”.

In just its second year of progress, the program results are staggering. “The interventionists are like mentors to the students they teach, so the students really connect and focus in their learning groups,” said Collier.

As far as the future is concerned, program director of DREAMS, Lesli Hutchins said, “We hope to continue to serve the maximum number of students through DREAMS and to further maintain the positive academic achievement we’ve seen.”

Written by: Olivia Paige Watson
Communications Specialist
MSU College of Education
opw4@msstate.edu | (662) 325-2252