‘Amazing things’: State Dept. of Education Superintendent visits CCPS to celebrate reading award

Cullman City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff speaks with a student on Friday at Cullman City Primary School. Alabama State Dept. of Education Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey visited and toured the school as part of a celebration of the recent grand prize win for the Dr. Louisa Moats Award. (Trent Moore/CCS)

CULLMAN, Ala. — Cullman City Primary School won the prestigious Dr. Louisa Moats Award earlier this year and celebrated that honor on Friday with a visit from Alabama State Dept. of Education Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey and a delegation of state officials.

Cullman City Primary School was named the 2021 grand prize winner of the national Dr. Louisa Moats Award. The award recognizes excellence in implementing the science of reading, as well as the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) professional learning. CCPS beat out five other finalists and was selected from a total pool of 26 schools from across the nation.

“Of the 50,000 schools in the United States, do you know how many schools got one of these? Just one,” Mackey told a group of students at the celebration, while holding up the award. “Just one school in the whole country was designated as the No. 1 school and received the Dr. Louisa Moats Award for excellence in implementing the science of reading. You are doing amazing things and other schools all across the country are taking note of it.”

Mackey went on to thank the teachers, principals, superintendent, school board, local and state officials and local families for working together to make the success possible.

“It takes all those people working together to win awards like this,” Mackey said.

Cullman City Primary School Principal Tricia Culpepper noted the teachers at the school have worked incredibly hard to implement the reading curriculum, and they’ve seen those efforts pay off with 93 percent of CCPS kindergartners and first graders reaching or exceeding the state reading benchmark.

“They accomplished all this, even though we had our COVID restrictions in place,” Culpepper said. “But we did not let that stop us from making sure our children are prepared. We want our students to be lifelong readers and lifelong learners, and we hope we have put that path in front of them.”

Alabama Sen. Garlan Gudger added: “As a product of Cullman City Schools, it’s amazing to see what I was learning in kindergarten versus what these students today are learning in kindergarten,” he said. “It has a lot to do with the teachers, administration, superintendent, state superintendent and school board here today.”

Officials say the LETRS curriculum and training CCPS has been doing in recent years has been transformative in the school’s approach to teaching the science of reading and has helped create a new foundation for the future. To that end, CCPS is quickly becoming a model school to showcase the success of how well the curriculum can work when implemented.

Cullman City Schools has more than 3,000 students and encompasses Cullman High School (Grades 9-12), Cullman Middle School (Grades 7-8), East Elementary School (Grades 2-6), West Elementary School (Grades 2-6), and Cullman City Primary School (Grades K-1). Cullman City Schools also hosts the Cullman City Head Start Program. Cullman City Schools consistently ranks as one of the top school systems in College ACT scores in the state of Alabama.