Recently, Princeton Public Schools NJ (PPS) was named an IMSE Accredited Partner, joining a prestigious group of school districts in the U.S. dedicated to structured literacy. Key to the success of Princeton has been a supportive administration that is committed to strengthening its foundational literacy practices as the key first step towards equity in learning.

PPS has four elementary schools, and a team of reading interventionists from the district underwent IMSE’s Orton-Gillimgham training this past summer. Their Supervisor of Elementary Education, Sarah Moore, also a Level 5 Orton-Gillingham Master Instructor and certified Orton-Gillingham school district instructor, beamed that in just two months, her students’ progress has not only been emotional but mind-boggling. Students who did not know how to write sentences or even that Q goes with U – were learning so much faster. They learned word blends, red words, digraphs, and CVC words; kids were pounding out syllables and tapping out sounds, something this instructor had not seen from students in previous years.  

The curriculum and professional development has gone over so well that in the Fall of 2022, IMSE trained more than 20 PPS staff members from its elementary schools in the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach. Within weeks, instructors were using the program and strategies with students and reporting very strong results. PPS has a plan to enroll all remaining K-1 educators for training in the summer of 2023, and plans to add a K-1 structured literacy block for the 2023 school year.  

PPS School Superintendent Carol Kelley said in an article that appeared in Patch, “Learning to read is the key to attaining academic success, and by incorporating Orton-Gillingham techniques into our program, we will help all of our students achieve their full potential,” Kelley said. “This boost to our early elementary program aligns perfectly with our goal of supporting the needs of early learners, age 3 to Grade 3.”

While the state of New Jersey does not mandate a Science of Reading (SoR) curriculum, Princeton Public Schools is seen as an important bellwether for other NJ school districts. The district screens students for dyslexia by first grade and is committed to evidence-based reading instruction based on the SoR and using proven methods like O-G. PPS is on a mission to reduce the number of students reading below grade-level.

Data shows that early intervention dramatically reduces the number of students who read below grade level. Today, nearly 40 percent of fourth graders do not read at a basic level, according to 2022 NAEP data, while 67 percent do not read at a proficient level. Literacy concerns begin in the earliest weeks of school. Sadly, a student who fails to learn to read adequately in the first grade has a 90 percent probability of remaining a poor reader by Grade 4 and a 75 percent probability of being a poor reader in high school.

This limits opportunities for success in school and out, and destroys the natural love of learning. It does not have to be this way. The Orton-Gillingham method improves students’ ability to read and “read to learn” when studying other subjects. Congratulations to the passionate literacy team at PPS for implementing instructional changes that will help keep countless kids on track. Niche’s 2023 Best Schools and Districts recently recognized Princeton Public Schools with an overall grade of A+ for academics, teachers and college prep. We couldn’t agree more!


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