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Edison students get a boost

Alissa Widman Neese • Mar 8, 2014 at 8:00 PM

A recent donation of new technology has Edison Elementary School’s bookworms raising the roof.

CertainTeed, a local roof shingle manufacturer, donated more than $22,000 this year in support of its successful CertainRead program.

The gift purchased 90 Microsoft Surface tablets for students in first, second and third grades, which will allow them to take online reading comprehension tests, as well as other standardized assessments.

It’s the largest award the school has ever received from a corporation.

“The community is good to us, and we want to put good things back into the community,” said Ed Miller, human resources manager at CertainTeed. “We hire a majority of our employees from the local area, and ultimately we benefit from the quality of the people we recruit and retain”

Edison Elementary School’s CertainRead program encourages students to complete reading comprehension quizzes to collect points. If a student accumulates enough points, they earn prizes, entries into monthly drawings and sometimes trophies.

The competitive program started in 1998, when the Milan Chamber of Commerce sought a way to improve local students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, chamber member Dick Smith said.

“At that time, the national chamber sent out a bulletin indicating those were the greatest inefficiencies of job applicants,” Smith said. “Our elementary students didn’t have a reading program outside of regular classroom instruction, and we wanted to change that”

CertainTeed pledged $15,000 to kickstart the effort, as well as an additional $5,000 each year for the next five years. Other local organizations also supported the cause, but none have come close to CertainTeed’s contributions.

To date, the corporation’s annual donations to sustain CertainRead total almost $100,000.

The funds purchase books, software and desktop computers, which were in short supply before CertainTeed provided the Microsoft Surface tablets this fall.

Students were reading books more quickly than they could complete tests, simply because there weren’t enough desktop computers available to use.

“Our points flatlined because students were waiting in line,” principal David Hermes said. “We didn’t want them to lose their incentive to keep reading”

This year, students are on pace to shatter their total points accumulated record, school librarian Cindy Thayer said.

In 2013, they earned 28,090 points. In 2014, they’ve already earned 18,440 points, with several months left to go.

Smith credits the success to CertainTeed’s support, as well as Edison Elementary School’s dedicated staff members.

“This is a 16-year investment that’s truly paid off for the students, teachers and community,” Smith said. “They’re not just keeping the program running. They’re improving it every year, and it’s really exciting to see”

Edison Schools paid about $18,000 in permanent improvement funds for Internet upgrades in its elementary building to accommodate its new tablets. The district’s annual permanent improvement budget is about $675,000.

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