CLINTON — The Clinton County Development Association committed $75,000 a year for three years to reading and technology in county elementary schools.

On Wednesday, CCDA members got their first look at how that program is performing.

Representatives from the Central DeWitt School District and Clinton School District were on hand to give presentations on how they've used the money and what achievements they've made.

"I'm excited to get to tell you about the benefits of your work as an administrator but also as a parent that we're able to put the funds into those classrooms to help those kids not feel beat down because they're struggling readers and that they're valued just like everybody else," Jen Vance, Director of Innovation and Instruction for Central DeWitt, said.

The grant was targeted toward second-grade elementary students around the county this previous year and was aimed at increasing grade-level literacy as students head toward third grade and the potential for retention if they fall below expected reading levels.

The $75,000 was divided equally among districts when they submitted the number of second-graders at their elementary schools and it was given on a per-student basis. This year that number came to $130.89 for around 573 students countywide, according to Jennifer Gutierrez, administrative agent for the CCDA. For the school year starting in the fall 2017, that number will be around $120 per student.

Both groups spoke of a three-tier system in which tier one is the core classroom, tier two a smaller group for more focused reading work, and tier three very small or individual instruction for students deemed at risk or persistently at risk of falling behind in reading level.

Clinton, according to elementary principals Brian Kenney, Kristi Cooley and Theresa Schultz, spent its money on small laptops for second-graders for use of Lexia, BookFlix and other software.

"As you know, education is a little different these days and students are greatly motivated by technology; any time you get technology in front of them the education becomes more fun and a little more engaging," Cooley said.

She said going into a classroom and seeing how engaged students are with the technology is a big plus and that the technology also allows for easy collaboration between students.

The main software they're using with the laptops, Lexia, is used to place students in a reading level and help provide instruction that is personalized to them, according to Schultz.

"We also added Lexia, which is a reading-based program, and this is a diagnostic tool but also a tool that puts students at their level to start at and personalizes their education," Schultz said. "We're not sticking a kid on a computer all day and they're off to graduate on their own, but this program is an assistant to the teacher and provides feedback to the teacher in a well-organized manner."

At Central DeWitt, Vance said, they used their funding to target the tier two and three small group students with purchases of iPads, Apple TVs and TVs for those classroom spaces.

Vance highlighted that the technology makes students more metacognitive, which can help with comprehension.

"I was in there last Wednesday and the kids were asking about coral, some of them had never seen coral or coral reef and didn't understand from their story what that was," Vance said. "The teacher is then able to Google it, pull it up on the screen and now they have a visual of what they're reading about."

She said with students varying in what type of background knowledge they have, the technology can even the playing field and help students understand what they are reading.

"When we look at how this helped our achievement, students in tier three and tier two support made at least a five-point gain on their reading scores from beginning to the end of this year," Vance said.

She said this means some students in the at-risk and persistently at-risk categories have moved up a tier and some even have moved up two.

According to the Clinton elementary principals, they will be using next year's money to purchase technology for first- and third-grade students as well build off of this year's blueprint.

The CCDA reading and technology policy specifies that the program is in place for two more years.