Ratner School receives four-year grant award from Miller Foundation for literacy program

Ratner School receives four-year grant award from Miller Foundation for literacy program

Mindfulness activity at The Ratner School

Instructor Rebecca Reynolds engages in a mindfulness activity with preschool students at The Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School in Pepper Pike. (Courtesy of Scott Morrison, Discovery Photo)

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio – Michael Griffith, head of school of The Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School, said a grant award the school has received from the Samuel H. and Maria Miller Foundation will help empower its students to become stronger readers.

The private school, which serves 190 children from age 18 months to eighth grade, was awarded a four-year commitment of $75,000 per year from the foundation to create the Samuel H. and Maria Miller Literacy for All program. The reading intervention program is focused on developing strong readers in terms of phonemic awareness, fluency and reading comprehension.

“We are honored and thankful to the Samuel H. and Maria Miller Foundation for this generous grant.”

Griffith said The Ratner School began the first phases of the comprehensive program in August, just weeks after learning it had been awarded the grant. The school applied for the grant last spring.

“We felt we had a need to strengthen the early reading and literacy program,” he said. “So we reached out to the foundation and wrote a grant explaining our need and what we were trying to accomplish, and we were fortunate to be able to get the grant.”

For at least 15 years, The Ratner School has used the Wilson Reading System to provide tools in prevention, early intervention and direct instruction. Griffith described it as a tier 3 program for the school’s most at-risk students who need to work with a reading specialist.

The first level of the Wilson Reading System is Fundations, a research-based literacy program designed for all students in grades K-3. The second level is Just Words, designed for students who have mild to moderate gaps in their decoding and spelling proficiency but do not require intensive intervention, Griffith said.

“Fundations allows us to identify needs as they emerge,” Griffith said. “Just Words begins in fourth grade and provides intervention for the student who even after Fundations needs more assistance but not yet the intensive system.”

The Ratner School has coupled its reading curriculum with mindfulness, a state of active, open attention to the present.

Griffith said the grant provides funding that will allow the school’s teachers to receive the training required for the new reading intervention program.

“We know reading skills are an important piece for students in all areas of learning,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to expand what we’re doing.”

A private foundation based in Cleveland, the Samuel H. and Maria Miller Foundation was founded in 1985. It awards funding primarily for education, the arts, health organizations, children and social services and Jewish organizations, according to foundationcenter.org.

Samuel H. Miller, co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Realty Trust Inc. in Cleveland and a noted civic leader and philanthropist, died in March at age 97. His second wife, Maria, survives him.