By Oak Ridge Board of Education
We have been reading a lot lately about the dire straits of reading instruction and students’ abilities in reading, especially at the early grades. Although there are challenges, there is also momentum to make positive impacts on students’ reading proficiencies in all grades.
What is happening with elementary literacy?
Two school years ago, the state changed (for the better) the English Language Arts and math standards to make them more rigorous in order to ensure that Tennessee high school graduates will be better prepared in the future for college and careers. Most public schools welcomed the change because the former standards just weren’t serving Tennessee students well. However, changing standards also meant changing state assessments.
In Oak Ridge, we saw a drop in our elementary reading results on state exams after these changes. The drops in reading results were especially evident with our economically disadvantaged students.
For us, this was and is unacceptable. We believe that all students can succeed, and we have expanded our literacy initiative as a result. This literacy initiative includes providing additional time and support starting in kindergarten all the way through high school to students who struggle in reading. We have trained reading specialists who provide intensive instruction to struggling students. We have a summer bookmobile program that is expanding to multiple elementary schools in order to help reduce summer reading setback. We have professional development for teachers on improving reading and writing instruction in the classroom, and we have purchased research-based materials to support them. In addition, we have recently been provided an opportunity to work with the Carnegie Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Education to systematically analyze our early literacy efforts in order to improve student outcomes. This work will begin in April 2016 and will last through September 2018.
But what about testing? [Read more…]