Many school districts across the country struggle with students who are falling behind in reading and teachers that are less prepared to drive elevated literacy outcomes in their classrooms. Scientists know how children learn to decode, yet many teachers are not taught the structure of language. Often, a school’s literacy approach is a convergence of the vast array of reading curricula, teaching methods, and resources its teachers have utilized because there has been no higher-level guidance.
Although we may not be able to identify the specific reasons why students lack the skills to read, we know that what they have had in the past has often been ineffective. A unified training in a single methodology that follows the current research in the Science of Reading would best support classrooms to ensure highly effective intervention across school districts.
By developing a district-wide literacy action plan, the district can determine what its literacy goals are over the next few years and how it will reach those goals. In developing this plan, districts will decide the support that will be put in place to help their educators and students reach these goals. These support items usually include district structures, professional development, resource allocation, and policies and procedures. The district literacy action plan articulates the goals set forth for the entire school district, articulates the support the district will provide, and sets the expectations for schools to implement the plan and take action.
The components of a Strategic District Literacy Action Plan should include:
- Content: Connect the plan to other planning documents and other district initiatives
- Legislature: Identify the current state of literacy in the district and determine the importance of improving it
- Vision Statement: Create a vision statement that says what would literacy and learning look like in the district if a literacy improvement initiative were successful?
- Improvement Goals: Determine measurable district literacy goals in each of four areas: the systematic use of data, standards-based curriculum, system of tiered instruction and intervention, and family and community involvement
- Action Steps: Determine the actions to be taken in the next year (or more) to support progress toward the literacy goal
- Progress Monitoring: Come up with assessment plans to make sure each school is meeting the goals set forth by the district
- Expectations for Schools: Lay out the expectations of the schools to enforce the district literacy plan
- Team Information and Process: Determine guidelines for your schools and educators to follow to achieve these goals and an understanding of why they are teaching what they are teaching
Once an effective literacy action plan is in place, the district must then begin implementation. This includes finding the right Structured Literacy professional development training that can prove to be effective for not just the students, but also for the educators. By providing educators with the same opportunities to learn and grow, districts can drive consistency within their schools, making it easier to measure the results of the literacy action plan in place.
Effective Professional Development should be:
- Content-based: Select learning opportunities should target explicit instruction of knowledge, skills, and strategies in the specific subject area.
- Relevant: Teachers are motivated to learn when the content is meaningful.
- Active: Provide hands-on opportunities to model and practice, review lessons, engage in planning, and observe live demonstrations or videos of an actual implementation.
- Collaborative: Provide opportunities for collective participation between teachers, leaders, and experts that are more effective in enhancing teachers’ classroom practices.
- Empowering: By providing teachers with a deeper knowledge of literacy, districts increase fidelity and consistency in the classroom for better student growth.
- Sustainable: Examples of sustained professional development include workshop/class series, practicum or internship experiences, and certification programs.
- Extended Expert Support: With ongoing support from trainers, cohorts, and entire training communities, teachers are more prepared to succeed.
For the last 25 years, IMSE has been working with some of the largest districts in the country to improve literacy, including New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. By providing a consistent approach to literacy instruction, district literacy goals become collaborative rather than combative, and enable school districts to ensure they are improving literacy levels school by school and class by class.
When districts provide their schools with the same professional development opportunities, there is less of a need for adjustment when educators transfer classrooms within the district. Teachers can target specific literacy obstacles and challenges. Additionally, the involvement of school administrators in professional development enables them to work more closely with their teachers in the planning and assessment of students in their district.
Universal screening ensures that the appropriate interventions are in place for students who need them and provides real-time data for the entire district’s literacy levels. Administering a variety of assessments is an integral part of instruction and allows teachers to play an active role in making decisions about the goals of instruction and learning content.
The Importance of Reading Assessment
Assessments provide information that is fundamental in helping teachers to determine what to teach and how to teach it while answering the critical question, “Are my students learning?” Thoughtful assessment allows for teachers to maximize their time and focus on matching instruction and content to goals. When an assessment is directly aligned with instruction, both teachers and students benefit.
Assessments come in many forms and can serve a myriad of purposes. They are multi-faceted and may be formal or informal. They help us to analyze the learner’s performance, both quantitative and qualitative, as it represents both product (what the student has learned) and process (how the student learns best).
There are various types of assessments and teachers will want to consider them all when planning for the year.
- Diagnostic Assessment: Provides information about the student’s strengths and areas of weakness
- Formative Assessment: Indicates how the students are learning and how the teacher is teaching
- Interim Assessment: Guides decisions regarding the overall effectiveness of instructional content, methods, and general accountability
- Summative Assessment: Supports teachers and administrators to reflect on instructional practices and review content to inform decisions for the future
IMSE Impact Drives Consistency Across School Districts
IMSE Impact Structured Literacy Professional Development is designed to give educators a clear understanding of the Science of Reading and an understanding of why they are teaching what they are teaching. By going beyond other literacy programs that simply train teachers on how to utilize their specific teaching materials, IMSE empowers teachers with a deeper knowledge of literacy that increases fidelity and consistency in the classroom for better student growth.
IMSE is effective across all disciplines: general education, English language learners, Title 1, special education, and tutoring. By making sure educators understand the “why” behind literacy lessons and providing complete, day-to-day guidance, the IMSE training courses drive higher levels of fidelity for greater consistency. This improves overall reading levels and helps eliminate the need for more costly intervention and tutoring down the road.
IMSE educates and engages teachers in Structured Literacy, enabling them to immediately impact the reading abilities of students at all levels through its innovative classroom instruction based on the Science of Reading. IMSE’s professional development empowers teachers with a practical and proven reading program they can rapidly implement with confidence, beginning day one in the classroom.
If you’d like to learn more about how districts are partnering with IMSE to drive the success of their literacy action plans, please contact us today.
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