In 2021, the NEF will work with the District on a 3-year plan to transform Literacy instruction in our schools. Teaching reading is a sophisticated practice and a shared responsibility. It takes continual investment in professional development, up-to-date resources, and analysis. Although the complexity of reading has been understood for some time, only in recent years through brain imaging studies, has the science of reading been so well documented. Louisa Moates, scholar and expert of Reading, states, “Teaching reading is rocket science.”
In the Spring of 2020, the Newburyport Public School Administration, in conjunction with the teaching staff, came up with a new remote learning idea that uses a book to anchor the learning, connecting students and teachers across the content/grade level. The administration came to the NEF, asking for our help to fund a program that would get a book into the hands of every student in grades Pre-K through 8. The students will receive the book in the mail, accompanied by a letter from their teacher.
Does one learn to read or read to learn? The NEF-funded Literacy Closets helped the schools teach literacy in exciting ways with their new Comprehensive Literacy Program. We further supported the new program by building classroom libraries and enhancing reading materials in grades K-8. Classroom libraries provided teachers more and varied options when their new readers ask: “What can I read next?”
Newburyport is on a path to provide exceptional evidence-based teaching and learning in Reading. In 2017, we set a goal of reaching 90% of students reading at grade level by 3rd grade. The MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education also has a new statewide effort to “empower educators with the evidence-based practices for literacy that all students need. Evidence-based instruction, provided within schools and classrooms that are culturally responsive and sustaining, will put our youngest students on a path toward literacy for life.”
Engaging in diverse texts deeply and analytically is critical to a K-12 education. Learning with texts that demonstrate diversity of perspectives and world views encourage students to broaden their worldview, become culturally responsive, and to develop empathy. Analysis of our texts and units of instruction in meeting the standards at this high level will be a significant contribution to ensuring reading success.
The Newburyport School District is committed to a 5-year partnership with the University of Connecticut to participate in the Integrated MTSS Research Project, awarded by the US Dept. of Education. Our K-3 teachers will receive ongoing consultation and feedback on improving not only instruction, but also build capacity in leadership toward sustainable structures. Although the district was granted substantial professional development in this partnership, the supplies and materials needed to ensure and sustain a strong reading program required additional budgetary investment.
Phase 1 will include teacher and student materials for the new Word Study program, and expansion of our Summary Reading program to combat learning loss and the gaps occurring due to the pandemic.
To support the NEF’s efforts to support literacy across our public schools, donate now.