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Stacy Hooper works with students in East Side Elementary's Read 180 Lab. Students visit the lab daily to work on reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary with Hooper. The lab received a $25,000 grant from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for the Children this year.

East Side Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders sat cross-legged on the floor Tuesday listening to grown-ups brag about their school.

"This is a high-gaining, really fast-improving, fast-growing school," said Dan Challener, president of the Public Education Foundation.

"This is one of the schools in Hamilton County that we're just so proud of, and it's a school that reflects so much about who we are as a community," Superintendent Rick Smith told the students.

Challener and Smith spoke at East Side on Tuesday morning to celebrate the $25,000 grant awarded to the school by the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children. The school was given the grant to improve its Reading 180 Lab and to purchase nonfiction texts.

The school's reading lab is an incubator for literacy. Students in the lab sit on couches as they read and answer questions through writing, work on computer reading programs, and spend individual time with Stacey Hooper, the Read 180 teacher.

Fourth-grader Martavis Pitmon sat in the Read 180 Lab on Tuesday reading a book about insects.

"The main idea is this book is telling you about bees and what they eat," he said. "I like reading this kind of stuff."

Martavis said this is his favorite class because he is good at reading and he gets to practice it and answer questions in his neat handwriting.

Grants from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children have been distributed in partnership with the PEF annually since 2010. Blythe-Bower Elementary School in Cleveland also received a grant this year to develop its STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — lab.

The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children specifies that its grants are awarded to schools with a large percentage of students living in poverty. At East Side, about 98 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the state. And more than 50 percent of students at the school are English language learners.

But these factors have not limited the school's gains — it was named a Reward School this year by the state, meaning students' TCAP scores were in the top 5 percent statewide for year-over-year progress.

"Here at East Side school, we have a very diverse culture of learners, and lots of needs and lots of gaps in their learning. But one thing we have in common is a love of reading and a love of learning," Principal Stephanie Hinton said.

Hinton thanked the PEF, the School Fund for Children and the support of the Hamilton County Department of Education that she said allows her students to continue to succeed.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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