BASD: District adopts new core reading program
Bethlehem Area School District has a new core reading program for grades K-2 that better aligns with the district’s Reading by Grade 3 (RBG3) initiative, announced chief academic officer Dr. Jack Silva at the curriculum committee meeting May 8. Starting in 2017-18, “Wonders” by McGraw Hill will roll out across all 16 elementary schools.
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.
“First and foremost, the new curriculum had to meet the science of reading,” explained Dr. Jodi Frankelli, supervisor of early learning, grants and development.
Other criteria for the winning program included versatility to meet the needs of all students across such a large district, the inclusion of ELL (English Language Learner) and Special Education resources, and technology to support teachers’ instruction and student learning and to facilitate data collection.
During this school year, the district piloted three core reading curriculums from three leading publishers in 10 of its elementary schools throughout grades K-5 to determine which one best aligns with RBG3 goals and the outlined criteria. The piloting teachers gathered in March to evaluate the programs based on usage of it in their classrooms and narrowed the list down to two. The BASD Literacy Leadership Team then selected “Wonders” as the winning program.
Silva negotiated a purchase price below the district budget with McGraw Hill of $962,000.
To meet RBG3 goals, the district is using a combination of modern, research-based tools for training and coaching teachers, reading specialists and school principals and analyzing results from the classroom. The program is being rolled out grade level by grade level having begun this school year with kindergarten. Grade 1 and grade 2 teachers will undergo training in the 2017-18 school year.
RBG3 has already yielded substantial results in kindergarten classrooms across the district with mid-year data showing the number of kindergarteners reading at grade level at Lincoln ES having 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.
In other district business, Silva reported the district met its lofty goal with a month to spare of 70 percent of all third graders having completed the Very Important Facts (VIF) system of the First in Math (FIM) program, developed by Dr. Robert Sun, since implementing the program at the beginning of the year.
FIM harnesses the power of digital gaming to teach critical mental math skills. The VIF program is a compilation of 16 important facts developed by Sun that students memorize to be able to subtract any pair of two digit numbers. To successfully complete the VIF modules, students must correctly solve a series of nine subtraction problems of two-digit numbers in under 10 seconds each using only mental math, something most American adults cannot do, according to Sun.