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School board implements literacy-focused changes


By Aishi Debroy and Kate Phillips, Staff Reporters

At the school board and education committee meetings on Oct. 28 and Nov. 14, respectively, the school board discussed new changes that they will implement on reading in the district this school year. In order to identify  issues early on in students’ reading development, these changes will include new screening mechanisms for students, parent access to their children’s reading data through PowerSchool starting in early November, and additional training for reading teachers and specialists. 

“We’ve approved money to be able to revamp the (district reading) curriculum. We’ve approved funding for the additional teacher training. We’ve approved the funding for additional data collection and benchmarks and the ability to be able to communicate that to parents,” board member Todd Kantorczyk said.

These changes were propelled in part by the parent organization Everyone Reads T/E, which formed two years ago to address parent concerns regarding the curriculum for students reading below the proficiency level. According to Kate Mayer, a parent of a T/E student and a member of the organization, the group wanted increased communication among the teachers, parents and administration. In particular, they hoped to implement the “science of reading” method, which prioritizes evidence-based reading, phonemic awareness and phonics and emphasizes the importance of explicit reading instruction, into the district curriculum.

 “About 60% of kids do not learn to read effortlessly without specific instruction in reading that is supported by this evidence-based (method), so our goal was to give access to that information to our teachers and to collaborate with our administration to do that,” Mayer said.

In addition, board member Kate Murphy proposed a literacy council after Everyone Reads T/E suggested the idea, which was intended to promote increased communication between parents and teachers about the current reading curriculum, but the policy committee voted against the proposal on Oct. 1. Instead of creating a new council, the board will incorporate ideas proposed by Everyone Reads T/E by modifying the district’s Curriculum Council, a forum for discussing district educational programs that is made up of faculty, administrators, board members, parents, community members and students. According to Wendy Towle, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Staff Development and Planning, the council plans to meet three to four times starting this year. 

As stated by Towle in a presentation addressing the school board on Nov. 14, the Curriculum Council will focus on literacy during the 2019-2020 school year, including updates on reading resources for kindergarten through second grade and literacy-related initiatives for kindergarten through 12th grade. The council intends to hear presentations on literacy from outside experts, discuss changes to the curriculum and address questions about the curriculum from the public.

“I am hopeful that this (council) that will have a focus on literacy will not be just for a certain group, but for all of the community to invest (in) and also be educated about literacy moving forward,” board president Scott Dorsey said at the school board meeting on Oct. 28.

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