I thought about making today’s post into 2 separate ones, but since I will be on vacation next Thursday, I put them together to tide you over until I get back. If you don’t have time to read the whole post now, skip to the end under “Spread the Word”.
Congratulations to Lake Orion Public Schools for taking first place in The Oakland Press/Oakland Schools Excellence in Education Awards Recognition Program for their Early Intervention Reading initiative! Phonics First was one of the three main components in the initiative.
The Clarkston News reports impressive gains in kindergartners enrolled in the program:
…The Early Intervention Reading Initiative was implemented in 2012 for kindergartners district-wide, which grew to include first graders in 2013 as well. The program assesses each student in 16 reading categories in order to provide data for reading specialists to develop individual learning plans.
Prior to the program 68 percent of kindergarteners were scored as successful pre-readers. After enrolling in the program for one year, 87 percent of kindergarteners met the State’s standards as successful pre-readers.
“Studies and research has shown us that if you can recognize phonemic awareness and have those pre-reading skills, you’re going to be a solid reader,” Tamura Oberle-Lang said, teacher consultant for LO schools…
This story caught my attention for two reasons: first, it provides evidence for the impact Phonics First can have when implemented in schools; second, it shows schools are addressing the importance of early reading intervention.
Importance of Reading Proficiently by Third Grade
Early reading intervention is critical to students’ success in school. The National Governors Association released A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy in 2013. The purpose of the guide is to inform policymakers on the importance of early literacy and provide a framework for effective policies that support early reading proficiency. Here is what they have to say about the importance of early literacy:
“Scores on third-grade reading assessments are early predictors of students’ long-term academic achievement. Most third graders reading below grade level have great difficulty catching up with their peers. In fact, they tend to fall farther behind as the complexity of text, subject matter, and concepts increases from grade to grade. Third-grade reading scores are now considered a leading indicator of high school graduation rates.”
I’m just going to highlight a factor of one of the suggested policy actions today, but please take the time to read the entire guide at some point. It’s lengthy, so you may want to read it one section at a time like I did. (A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy) It presents recent data as well as possible solutions involving policies that can be implemented. I encourage you teachers and educators to read it because we are the ones who actually put things into practice.
Evidence-Based Professional Development
Action 4 of the Governor’s Guide is to “equip professionals providing care and education with the skills and knowledge to support early language and literacy development.” Sounds like a no brainer, right? Yet when I think back to my education courses in college, I didn’t learn nearly enough about how to teach reading. Looking back now, that’s baffling- teaching reading is one of the biggest responsibilities for an elementary school teacher! The literacy courses I had were focused on what/how to teach after students could read fluently. Thankfully I ended up working for RLAC. I learned more from our courses than anywhere else. What’s even better is that what RLAC taught me I actually use with students!
What do you remember learning about teaching reading in your teacher prep courses? I’m very interested in understanding more about how teachers are being prepared.
That’s why it’s wonderful to hear about a district like Lake Orion implementing Phonics First as part of an early reading initiative with such astounding success. The Governor’s Guide advises policy makers to “set standards to promote investment in evidence-based professional development strategies.” Lake Orion is right on with choosing Phonics First. The Governor’s Guide admits that too many resources are being spent on “isolated workshops or trainings that are disconnected from classroom practice.” Those words bring back memories of quite a few professional developments (PDs) I’ve attended. (I know I’m not the only one who has kept track of how many times a presenter said “utilize” just to stay awake.)
Phonics First is a Quality Intervention
I am absolutely passionate about RLAC’s Phonics First because I see and hear on a daily basis how successful it is. We are an IMSELC accredited program and endorsed by the International Dyslexia Association. Those honors are only given to effective, research-based quality programs. In other words, we are legit! I love training because I don’t feel like I’m wasting anyone’s time. I know the participants are getting essential and practical knowledge and skills that will help them teach their students better. During every training, I hear teachers say they learned more about reading from the Phonics First workshops than they did in school.
What should PD look like according to the Governor’s Guide? I couldn’t help but think about Phonics First as I read this: “offerings should provide long-term support, directly link knowledge with practice, model and offer feedback on practice implementation, and provide opportunities for critical reflection in the context of collaboration with peers, parents or advisers.” I think someone attended a Phonics First training and then wrote this! The guide also mentions the value of coaching, which is actually what I am doing right now for a district. Coaching sessions are just as important as training workshops. It is infinitely valuable to have support and guidance implementing strategies from a workshop in your actual classroom.
Spread the Word
So what does this part of the Governor’s Guide mean for us as teachers and educators? We may not be able to affect policy as straightforwardly as a governor can, but we can raise awareness and share our experiences. Effective, quality programs like Phonics First can only be implemented if people are aware of them. Let administrators and principals know about your successes with Phonics First. Spread the word to a colleague who hasn’t been trained in the program. Tell staff at your children’s schools about Phonics First. Share your knowledge with other parents and encourage them to mention Phonics First to their child’s teacher or principal.
RLAC has only grown by word of mouth. Our program fits perfectly with the changes outlined in the Governor’s Guide; more importantly, we know Phonics First works! I would love to hear more news stories about schools like Lake Orion who use Phonics First to make a difference with their students.
Here would be a great time to share your Phonics First stories. Please email me your successes, big or small, and I will feature one in the blog each week. firstname.lastname@example.org No success is too small. I want to know about everything from districts winning awards to one student finally remembering the sound for ch!
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Check back for next week’s Multisensory Monday, but there won’t be a Thursday post. I’ll be thinking of you though, as I hike, horseback ride and sit by the pool in Arizona!