Bethlehem Press

Sunday, June 25, 2017
PRESS PHOTO BY LIZ KEMMERERSupervisor of literacy Kimberly Harper, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Silva and supervisor of early learning, grants and development Dr. Jodi Frankelli present mid-year data from the “Reading by the End of Grade 3” initiative at the curriculum committee meeting Feb. 6. PRESS PHOTO BY LIZ KEMMERERSupervisor of literacy Kimberly Harper, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Silva and supervisor of early learning, grants and development Dr. Jodi Frankelli present mid-year data from the “Reading by the End of Grade 3” initiative at the curriculum committee meeting Feb. 6.

“Reading by the End of Grade 3” yielding big results in the classroom

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 by Liz Kemmerer Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

New data is showing marked improvement in students’ reading scores just since the beginning of this school year, when the literacy initiative, “Reading by the End of Grade 3,” (RBG3) took to the classroom. Assistant superintendent Dr. Jack Silva, supervisor of early learning, grants and development Dr. Jodi Frankelli, and supervisor of literacy Kimberly Harper presented the mid-year data to the board at the curriculum committee meeting Feb. 6.

RBG3 aims to make students proficient readers by the end of third grade by targeting their teachers with professional instruction on the science of learning to read and how to put theory to practice in the classroom.

Last year, before the district began applying the RBG3 initiative to classrooms, the PSSA reading proficiency score for BASD indicated that only 56.4 percent of students were reading proficiently at the end of third grade, which Silva said is not good enough.

“All the research shows that getting ALL students reading by the end of third grade requires a very comprehensive, multi-year approach, not just with students, but with teachers and principals as well,” said Silva.

The district is rolling out the initiative grade by grade, starting with this year’s kindergarten class. All 48 of the district’s kindergarten teachers and principals from the 16 elementary schools underwent professional development training in literacy all of last year in preparation for applying their new knowledge to the classroom this year. This gradual phasing in is more manageable for the district to ensure that teachers are getting the quality level of training and continuous coaching and support they need, and also because the earlier students’ reading issues are caught, the more likely they are to be reading well in later years, Silva said.

“Every child that we catch before they fall behind grade level, and keep them at grade level, makes it easier for us to reach that goal,” Silva explained. “The more we can do [with kindergarten] earlier, the greater their reading achievement and higher grades will be.”

Since the beginning of the year, the number of kindergarteners reading at grade level at Lincoln ES jumped from 52 percent to 84 percent. Calypso ES reported 100 percent of their kindergarteners reading at grade level, up from 64 percent. Most substantially, Freemansburg ES went from 25 percent of their kindergarteners reading at grade level to 86 percent reading at grade level.

Harper, Frankelli and Lincoln ES Principal Banita Draper presented Lincoln ES’s mid-year results at the “Pennsylvania Title 1 Improving School Performance” conference Jan 29 – Feb. 1 in Pittsburgh.

The mid-year data measures the number of students at each school who have fallen behind in reading since the beginning of the year. According to the data, at 10 of the 16 elementary schools, fewer students have fallen behind than a year ago and 12 of the 16 schools reported fewer students falling behind since last spring.

Overall, 77.8 percent of kindergarteners throughout the district are reading at or above grade level, with Calypso ES and Freemansburg ES already exceeding their year-end goals and Farmersville ES, James Buchanan ES and Thomas Jefferson ES closing in on their year-end goals.

Harper noted, “This data, our school data and our classroom data is used to make instructional decisions. It’s not to evaluate anyone. It points to what we need to do for our kids.”

Grade 1 teachers are being trained this year in anticipation of being handed this year’s kindergarten class next year. Teachers in grades two and three will be trained subsequently with hopes that 100 percent of students from this year’s kindergarten class will be reading proficiently by the end of their third grade year and all students in grades K-2 will also be reading at or above grade level.

BASD is training teachers in the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) modules, which Silva calls the gold standard of teaching reading. The LETRS program seeks to deepen teachers’ understanding of areas critical to reading and language learning to improve core reading instruction, including phonics, decoding, oral language learning, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

“We cannot intervene our way out of our reading issues,” Silva explained. “The only way for us to reach that goal is to improve our core instruction for all students. When kids do not need layers of intervention and they get the support they need in their classroom from highly effective classroom teachers, it sticks.”

LETRS also addresses working with all types of learners and how to diagnose and overcome students’ reading challenges when intervention is needed.

“When we see gaps in skills, we have to target those quickly, monitor their progress, report that data and hopefully get [those students] back into core instruction quickly,” said Silva.

Free family literacy sessions for families registering children for kindergarten next year at Donegan, Fountain Hill, Freemansburg, Lincoln and Marvine elementary schools will be held at these schools in through May. Sessions will be held for families at all other elementary schools in May. The sessions will focus on preparing children for full-day kindergarten and how to continue literacy-learning at home.

According to Literacy Matters, an organization that provides support and online literacy training for schools and teachers, 26 percent of eighth graders in America cannot read at the basic level. With that, 25 to 40 percent of American children will suffer in their careers because they don’t read well enough and according to the Department of Justice, two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. In Pa. alone, three out of four jobs require education beyond high school.

After presenting these statistics, Silva said, “There is no goal more important to BASD or the community than to have all students reading by the end of third grade.”