February 9, 2016

Cameron invests in Sussex Schools through family engagement programming and gifted education curriculum

Sussex County Public School District is building on its recent academic gains with new support from The Cameron Foundation. The Foundation’s Board recently approved a proactive grant of $37,700 to the school system to introduce two new resources to its offerings for students and their families.

“In reviewing test scores and accreditation ratings from the most recent school year, we observed that Sussex County Public Schools is among the districts in the Foundation’s service area showing notable improvement in student achievement,” said Cameron President J. Todd Graham. According to the Virginia Department of Education, Sussex’s on-time graduation rate has improved nine percentage points from 80.4% in academic year 2012-2013 to 89.2% in 2014-2015. In that same time, the dropout rate declined from 14.7% to 4.8%. Graham said, “Cameron Foundation staff worked with Sussex school administrators last fall to determine what might further aid the division’s progress.” Sussex administrators identified two key areas as critical: establishing a curriculum for the district’s gifted and talented program and providing a structured parent education program.

To enhance its services to students in the gifted and talented program, Sussex will adopt a curriculum known as the Integrated Curriculum Model (ICM), housed at the College of William and Mary’s Center for Gifted Education. This rigorously tested model is designed for high ability learners in grades K-8 in the areas of science, social studies, and language arts. Research shows several favorable outcomes with use of the ICM, such as gains in reading comprehension, critical thinking and analysis. Ongoing use of the curriculum also shows more long-term academic growth for students. Dr. Arthur Jarrett, Jr., superintendent for Sussex County Public Schools, said, “The school division strives to ensure all children benefit from a rich curriculum that accommodates their ability levels. The addition of the Integrated Curriculum Model will help us better fulfill that goal as well as augment our efforts to support higher student achievement.” The Cameron funding will provide materials and training for the school division to adapt the ICM in its classrooms.

Also under this grant, Sussex County Public Schools is contracting with Commonwealth Parenting and the Children’s Museum of Richmond to deliver Family Engagement programming semi-monthly during the remainder of the 2015-16 school year as well as throughout the 2016-2017 academic year. Commonwealth Parenting’s Director of Mission, Liz Pearce, is a national expert on parenting education and also serves as the Director of Parent Engagement for the Children’s Museum of Richmond. The programming, modeled after a “Table Talk” program offered in Chesterfield schools, includes various information sessions to offer educational strategies to parents to be able to support their children both at school and with homework assignments at home. While parents attend the sessions, their children receive homework help and participate in other activities, and each session begins with a meal to bring families together.

Dr. Jarrett attributed the division’s recent accomplishments in part to parents who are actively engaged in their children’s learning. He also praised the level of parental involvement that he sees through the division’s PTA and Booster Club. “However, in order to create a true home-to-school connection, our teachers and other staff are seeking a more holistic approach in our partnerships with parents,” Jarrett said, adding, “We believe this new programming will help us all work more closely together for the success of our children.”

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