C.I.A.O. Needs Assessment and Realignment
Locally, IASD allocated funds to support enhancements to the general education reading program for grades K-3 for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as professional development for teachers. Program adoptions included Heggerty Phonemic Awareness and Fundations curricula. The Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curriculum focuses on the sounds of the English language with activities that include rhyming, manipulating syllables, identifying onset-rime, blending and segmenting sounds, and adding or deleting sounds. Phoneme awareness, or sound awareness, is necessary to develop proficient reading and spelling skills. Reading Rockets offers more information on this topic here. Fundations is a systematic program used to teach the critical foundational skills of reading, spelling, and handwriting, which include:
- Phonemic awareness
- Phonics and word study
- High-frequency word study
- Reading fluency
- Comprehension strategies
Systematic, explicit phonics instruction creates connections between the sounds (phonemes) and symbols (letters or graphemes) of the English language. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, yet there are 44 sounds, 18 of which are vowel sounds. For more information about phonics, visit Reading Rockets. When students have a strong foundation in basic reading skills, they are able to automatically decode unfamiliar words, which frees up cognitive desk space for the complex task of comprehending a variety of texts.
Evidence-based instructional practices have positive impacts on student achievement; however, these practices alone are not sufficient to produce improved outcomes for students. Therefore, in addition to supporting teachers’ ongoing skill development through professional learning activities and coaching, IASD has aligned instructional approaches to scientific research with regard to what works best in education based in part on the work of Dr. John Hattie, researcher in education. In reading specifically, among others already employed by our teachers, the focused practices of IASD include:
- comprehensive instructional programs for teachers
- explicit, systematic phonics and phonological awareness instruction for students
- direct instruction in context
- response to intervention within a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) framework
Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring
An efficient system of supports (MTSS) collects, summarizes, and uses data for instructional decision making. Acadience Reading, formally known as DIBELS Next, is administered to students K-3 as a universal screening measure of basic early reading skills.
All students are assessed with Acadience Reading three times per year (fall, winter, spring). Some students at-risk for reading difficulties are also progress monitored monthly, with most intensive students being progress monitored on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The goal is for students to grow and advance in their basic reading skill development, which will put them on the trajectory to be a proficient reader.
Acadience Reading as a universal screening measure and progress monitoring tool that is:
- Standardized with normative data for comparison
- Reliable (consistent over time) and valid (accurate)
- Sensitive to small increments of change (progress)
- Quick and easy to administer
- Useful when matching the amount and type of instructional support students need
Overall, with the results of Acadience Reading assessments, educators have the ability to ensure students are on track to become proficient readers, as well as to continue to make adequate progress. Furthermore, for students falling below or well below benchmark, teachers are able to make sure they receive the support they need to become proficient readers.
A spelling inventory is also administered to all students in grades 2 - 5. The spelling inventory offers further insight into spelling patterns students have mastered and those which still need to be taught. In addition, the classroom summary of the assessment helps guide teachers’ instruction.
Digging Deeper for Students at Risk
In addition to Acadience Reading, other assessment tools are used to dig deeper into students’ specific skill needs if indicators of risk are high, which may include an assessment of phonological awareness skills (basic syllable knowledge, onset-rime, and basic and advanced phoneme levels) or phonics skills (i.e., short vowels, consonant blends, digraphs/trigraphs, r-controlled vowels, multisyllabic words, etc.).
The following organizational adjustments were made by the district to align with the reading initiative, which include:
- Developing common schedules across primary buildings
- Sharing a consistent vision and focus district-wide
- Adding W.I.N. (What I Need) time for intervention and enrichment
- Maximizing available resources (staff and materials)
- Establishing data teams and a framework for data-based decision-making