Blog Series

Overcoming the Challenge of Poverty: Helping Low-Income Students Move Toward Reading Success

by EdView360 on Apr 12, 2018

  • Literacy
  • Reading Intervention
  • Struggling Readers


Growing up in a household where academic success is not encouraged or financial challenges outweigh other priorities can cause many students to struggle. Imagine how the challenges are magnified when those students attend a majority low-income school.  Resources are scarce, expectations are low, and morale suffers—resulting in low student achievement and poor graduation rates. 

While this scenario plays out more often than we would like, this does not have to be how the story ends. Gilmer County Charter Schools, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Georgia, serves 4,168 students who attend seven schools. More than two-thirds of the students receive free or reduced lunch and many families in this rural community of 28,000 live below the poverty line. For years, it was common for their students with disabilities to enter high school reading at the pre-primer to second-grade level. In 2012–13, only 40 percent of those students graduated from high school. These students came from families where the cycle of illiteracy remained for generations. 

Literacy Champion

Sometimes, one special person can turn the tide. And, in Gilmer County, that person with unmeasurable dedication is Dr. Diane Vautrot. She knew her school system needed a drastic change. Vautrot, a special education coordinator, began to explore literacy intervention programs that not only helped students get on grade-level, but did so quickly and with lasting results. Dr. Vautrot and other administrators collaborated with the Graduate First Dropout Prevention program and the North Georgia Learning Resource System for reading interventions and discovered REWARDS®, a unique reading intervention for students in grades 4–12.

Higher Graduation Rates and Higher Self-Confidence

After implementing REWARDS, graduation rates for Gilmer’s students with disabilities more than doubled—going from 40 percent to 86.1 percent. Still, the graduation rates are only part of the success as administrators and teachers observed confidence levels and self-esteem of students rose with each newfound achievement. 

During a recent webinar, literacy champion Diane Vautrot explained how she and her team of devoted educators and administrators are forging a new tradition of literacy success in Gilmer County Charter Schools. Watch now!


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