Students in Julie King’s second grade classroom at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 will read more aloud this year, including songs, poetry, and stories, as well as partner reading.
Since a child’s third grade reading proficiency is a key predictor of future academic success, the school district is focusing on expanding literacy and reading proficiency among the youngest students. According to Brian Smith, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ executive director of strategic priorities, it’s vital that children have achieved a comfortable literacy proficiency by third grade, in order for students to achieve the best success possible in future grades.
With the other second-grade teachers at Colfax, Ms. King decided to focus on teaching reading fluency after learning about the science of literacy instruction at the district’s professional development center in the West End. About 250 teachers from across the district, most for kindergarten through second grade, participated in a training program titled LETRS, or Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, this month before returning for the start of the school year.
The school district took on training teachers in literacy instruction in an attempt to meet one of the goals presented in its “Whole Child, Whole Community” report, Mr. Smith said. The report, which administrators released last December, calls for the district to “refocus on academic milestones.”
The district offered schools money to fund literacy instruction, between about $500 and $6,000, depending on the size of the school and how many teachers went through the training, as an incentive for them to participate.
“None of the other goals for our students are going to be achieved if they’re not reading on grade level, and so this is why we’re putting so much investment in this,” Mr. Smith said.