MEGA Conference prepares educators for new school year and beyond

MEGA Conference prepares educators for new school year and beyond

Several programs and money have been invested into school systems to help students learn the reading skills they need. Many children, however, still lag behind others in achieving academic success despite the best efforts.

MEGA Conference 2007 is one such comprehensive workshop designed by the State Department of Education to close the gap on the number of students who for some reason or another are not excelling at their grade levels and to also challenge students who are average, advanced or gifted in their studies.

The MEGA Conference, held every year at the Mobile Convention Center, is a week long retreat that targets and attracts hundreds of superintendents, principals, supervisors of special programs, teachers, literacy coaches, and curriculum personnel from across the state of Alabama.

Educators are given an itinerary of the topics covered; and, based on the needs of their individual school systems they choose from a plethora of Professional Development  break-out sessions. The theme of this year's conference was "Creating School Cultures that Promote Academic Excellence". 48's Internet Media Content Manager spent two days in Mobile with North Alabama educators to ascertain what schools are doing to help promote learning among students. One of educators' main concerns was improving literacy through strategic teaching. During this two-day session, special emphasis was placed on planning and reflection.

Dr. Larry Collier, who is a veteran principal of Brookhaven Middle School in Decatur, said the information he gained during the conference will be utilized throughout the school year. In fact, he said he plans to hold several professional development activities to train both new and veteran teachers to help improve their knowledge and skills in the areas of literacy development.

Dr. Collier said, "We gained effective strategies that will assist struggling student readers as well as extend the reading knowledge of those who are succeeding. How we attack the reading deficits will give us an advantage in meeting the Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) mandate specified by the No Child Left Behind Legislation."

The Alabama Reading and Math Test (ARMT) is a criterion reference test used to determine student proficiency in math and reading. The results of that test will help indicate whether a school has met its AYP goals. Research has proven that across the nation, a large proportion of students are reading below their grade levels. That's one of the reasons state legislators recently approved the FY 07-08 Education Budget, which increased funding for the highly touted Alabama Reading Initiative or ARI.  ARI embraces the best practices to improve student achievement in the area of reading.

Some of the other topic discussed during the MEGA Conference included the following: A New Approach to Implementing the Alabama Occupational Diploma, Resolving Special Education Disputes, Integrating Math, Personal Finance, and Economics into Children's LiteratureLessons Learned from Reading First, Building Great Readers One Good Habit at a Time, and Practical Leadership for Principals.

Dr. Collier adds, "I think it's a noble effort on the part of the state to sponsor the MEGA Conference each year with the intent to equip educators with the necessary tools to create a climate or culture of student learning".

Educators from several other North Alabama school systems also attended Mega Conference 2007.