School district prepares to implement Early Childhood Literacy plan for 2019-20 school year

Washington County School Board members during a meeting in St. George, June 18, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County School Board unanimously approved the school district’s Early Childhood Literacy plan on June 18.

The plan, presented to the board by reading specialist Kathy Hall, sets two goals: to encourage kindergarten children at or above the current benchmark and to help second-grade students with low or below benchmark reading skills meet literacy requirements by May 21, 2020.

“Interestingly enough, our kids who are low and below and well-below have made tremendous gains, but it’s our kiddos in kindergarten that are on and above that we need to push,” Hall said.

Read more: School board approves 2019-20 budget, discusses changes to graduation requirements

The plan targets Washington County School District students from kindergarten to third grade in seven areas, including phonics, fluency, comprehension and writing.

According to the plan developed and written by Hall, the district will utilize existing programs and assessments to increase the percentage of kindergarten students at or above the benchmark by 5% and decrease the percentage of second-grade students who scored well-below the benchmark by 37%.

In order to meet this goal, the district intends to assess kindergarten students using the Reach for Reading Phonemic Awareness Assessment and Kindergarten Entry and Exit Profile to develop whole- and small-group instruction plans. The district will also assess second-grade students with the Reach for Reading Phonemic Awareness Assessment as well as the core phonics survey.

Teachers will participate in professional development in order to offer students “systematic intensive targeted instruction” through the Michael Heggerty Phonemic Awareness, Reach for Reading and The 95% Group programs. These lessons include Lexia, Imagine Learning or Waterford supplemental instruction for at least one hour each week in kindergarten and at least 45 minutes each week in second grade.

According to Hall’s plan, the instruction provided by teachers and reading specialists will “increase each student’s composite score and build a strong foundation in literacy for future success,” “fill in specific skill gaps” and “increase the percentage of students moving out of well-below benchmark.”

Level of instruction and student needs are broken into three tiers, where Tier 1 includes students who are at or above benchmark students and Tier 3 includes students with significant needs and require extended intervention. The district already includes Tier 2 interventions within the master schedule, which includes 15-30 minute lessons each day with students in need.

Faculty and staff – including teachers, learning coaches and interventionists – will have the opportunity to attend regional conferences, and the district will further support teachers by offering professional learning opportunities such as online courses throughout the school year.

New teachers or teachers changing grade levels will be offered a Reach for Reading core program introduction. Kindergarten teachers will also receive Heggerty Phonemic Awareness training and quarterly training in foundational skills. All first grade teachers will have the option to participate in the same training.

In preparation for Tier 2 instruction, all kindergarten through third-grade teachers will have the option to complete diagnostic assessment training, backwards design, Reach into Phonics instruction and The 95% Group phonemic awareness and phonics training, as well.

Hall said principals are encouraging their teachers to attend.

Interventionists and learning coaches will also participate in monthly collaboration and training meetings that encompass Acadience Reading data analysis, district intervention grouping and analysis, and student achievement tracking.

This plan will go into effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic school year.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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