The 2023 Nation’s Report Card by the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) revealed that the reading scores of 13-year-old children at all percentiles have significantly declined since 2020. States nationwide are beginning to react with legislation that enforces evidence-based, explicit reading instruction, but administrators cannot wait for state mandates to act in students' interest.
As teachers dive into the 2023 school year, administrators have the opportunity to make strategic efforts in their districts to drive gains in student literacy scores. There are several things administrators can do to help all students in their district start to read at grade level.
Developing Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
Professional Learning Communities allow for a deepened level of collaboration amongst educators to share resources and practices to serve the students in their classrooms better. These communities not only promote more robust connections between teachers but also allow for a forum in which they can reflect on ideas and stay on top of the latest effective trends in education.
Teachers benefit from a solution-focused protocol that guides them in addressing students' needs by incorporating data analysis, goal-setting, and defined actions to achieve those goals.
The development of these communities can allow administrators to play an indirect role in their teachers' growth and professional development by facilitating meaningful collaboration.
Maintaining Consistency and Prioritizing Reading Across All Schools in the District
The Department of Education has made it clear within its guiding principles that all students deserve learning environments that are safe, inclusive, supportive, and fair. Consistency is the key to ensuring that each student within a district receives a quality and equitable education that applies evidence-based approaches and utilizes comprehensive tools to promote success.
Administrators play a pivotal role in promoting consistency within their districts by setting explicit standards for the curriculum and instructional materials. A common core research-based curriculum across the district ensures equity by district administrators.
One way to maintain this consistency while prioritizing reading is to facilitate an efficient school schedule emphasizing an uninterrupted 90-120-minute literacy block. This allocation of time enables educators to devote substantial periods to the essential task of teaching reading effectively.
These strategies promote a structured and harmonious learning environment and underscore the district's commitment to nurturing students' reading skills.
Administrators set the tone for consistent academic standards.
Actions like this one will position literacy as a fundamental aspect of education in the district.
Providing and Facilitating Comprehensive Professional Development (PD) for Literacy Instruction
According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Structured Literacy, which prepares students to decode words explicitly and systematically, effectively teaches all readers for all tiers of instruction.
Research shows that 90% of all students, regardless of intellectual ability, can learn to read with access to teachers who employ scientifically-based reading instruction.
With nearly 60% of teacher preparation programs spending less than two hours teaching candidates how to support struggling readers, it is a necessity that teachers be given access to comprehensive professional development once they enter the classroom.
Administrators should allocate district funds and all other necessary resources to further empower educators by providing comprehensive teacher training in the science of reading.
Teacher training and courses in evidence-based literacy instruction equip teachers with a full toolbox of resources to implement in the classroom. This ensures all students receive the systematic, targeted instruction and resources they need to thrive in their reading journey.
An increased focus from district administration on investing time, money, and resources for professional development for their teachers can directly elevate student achievement.
Fostering a Culture of Data-Driven Instruction
Administrators can foster a culture of data-driven instruction by implementing data walls and data celebrations, encouraging teachers to assess and celebrate their students' progress regularly. As stated by the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center (AACC):
Ongoing and continuous assessment to guide instruction can lead to significant gains in student performance. Data is key to monitoring achievement levels and evaluating the performance of both students and educators. It can also be utilized to create strategic and actionable plans around literacy intervention.
Student data from benchmark assessments or other progress monitoring tools is key to understanding student needs. A lack of understanding of student performance can lead to mistakes in risk identification, ultimately resulting in students not receiving the proper instruction they need to learn how to read.
The IDA reports that only about 5% of students with dyslexia are appropriately identified and given intervention. To ensure that no student falls through the cracks, districts need a deep understanding of each student’s performance. The best way to do this is for district administrators to prioritize, expect, and monitor reading data across their district.
As we navigate through this crucial time of learning loss recovery as educators, we need to keep in mind one crucial point: the time to create change in our students' lives is today. Administrators don’t have to wait for state mandates to strategically implement processes that will nurture literacy gains. With conscious efforts in guiding and supporting teachers, we can unlock the key to universal literacy and help get all students reading on grade level.