Laurel Ledge to take part in federal initiative

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Laurel Ledge School was chosen to participate in an initiative to boost literacy and improve student behavior. The school was one of 20 in the state selected for the initiative. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Laurel Ledge School is one of 20 state schools chosen to join a new federally-funded initiative to boost literacy and improve student behavior.

The state Department of Education helped select a total of 20 schools in 12 districts to participate in the program this year, aiming to enroll 80 additional schools over the next five years.

“I’m so excited that we were picked,” said Laurel Ledge Principal Regina Murzak. “To be picked out of only 20 schools in the entire state of Connecticut just shows the strength of Laurel Ledge.”

Additional schools selected include those in Bridgeport, Colchester, Franklin, Killingly, Manchester, Montville, New Fairfield, New Haven, Plainfield, and Windham.

Connecticut was one of eight states awarded money for the program in October.
The $4.6 million program involves training the schools over three years to increase reading efficiency and reduce disciplinary referrals using research-based methods and tracking successes with data. The program aims to eliminate the achievement gap in which children with disabilities, ethnic minorities and non-English-speakers under-perform their peers.

Measurements of success include increasing the percentage of students reading at grade level or above by at least 10 percent each year, decreasing the number of referrals for major discipline problems to less than 0.39 per 100 students, and improving standardized test scores for students with disabilities.

“We’re bringing together successful models,” said Jeremy Bond, a spokesman for the State Education Resource Center, a professional development organization that will implement the program. “Things that haven’t been brought together before. And allow these model schools to go ahead with it in the hopes this will be spread all over the place.”

Murzak said her school expects its first visit from SERC on Feb. 21. She said she looked forward in particular to her staff receiving training in positive behavioral interventions and supports, a program that seeks to set expectations for behavior that she said will complement a school-wide disciplinary policy begun in the fall.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to be a part of for a while,” Murzak said. “My staff is excited. They’re always willing to do whatever it takes to improve learning for children.”