District leaders seek to give students the best possible opportunity to read on grade level.

The district held several Literacy Boot Camps over the summer with educators as the district works to improve students’ reading proficiency.

Eight campuses kicked off their school year with a Literacy Boot Camp specifically designed to focus on Aldine ISD’s new literacy initiative. The schools will be launching a literacy program in 2019-2020 using the American Reading Company® literacy resources and framework. The focus will be on early phonics instruction and complex text while maintaining a balanced literacy structure.

Griggs Primary, Goodman Elementary, Worsham Elementary, Marcella Elementary, Carroll Elementary, and Harris Elementary are taking part in the program. Two middle schools — Grantham Academy and Hoffman Middle — are also participating. In addition to third-grade reading levels, the district seeks to increase eighth-grade reading proficiency to increase readiness for high school.

During the boot camp, school staff reviewed the ARC® Core literacy framework and unpacked the state’s new English and Spanish language arts TEKS. They also received classroom set-up and instructional planning support from ARC® Core literacy coaches.

Studies show that students who read on grade level by the end of the third grade are more likely to succeed in school and their future careers. Unfortunately, 2019 preliminary results show that only 29 percent of Aldine ISD third-graders scored proficiently on STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness).

That means that less than 30 percent of third-graders are reading on grade level.

“We can — we must — do better,” said Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney. “We are piloting a new way to provide literacy instruction that includes how we train teachers. This group of schools will be the first to experience the new materials and approach. The effort is only a piece of the larger puzzle designed to increase reading scores and improve literacy.”

The larger puzzle, outlined in the district’s new strategic plan, addresses student achievement. It does so by building strong literacy foundations, providing quality resources, and improving support for instruction. The plan also includes a focused group of district staff that will design a comprehensive plan that outlines the specific programs and training that need to happen.

This summer, the Teaching and Learning Department, in partnership with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), launched the Aldine ISD Literacy Task Force. Over the next nine months, the group, led by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Todd M. Davis, will develop a shared vision and strategy to improve reading across the district with a specific focus on grade-level mastery.

“The overarching goal of our team is to increase student outcomes,” said Davis. “Students must master literacy at an early age to ensure they are successful not just now but in the future. We know that the ability to read and comprehend and the love of reading are so important to everything. To reach our goal, we will look at how we teach literacy at every grade level. We will propose bold changes to instruction that we believe will impact student outcomes immediately.”

The first task at hand is reviewing the district’s literacy resources and ensuring align materials at every level. Another responsibility is ensuring resources are available to assist those learning to speak English. The team will also ensure that schools not participating in the pilot are supported.

Additionally, the district held literacy boot camps for schools not involved in the pilot. The professional development was designed to unpack the new ELA standards. The “non-pilot” boot camps also provided training on foundational literacy skills, text complexity, and planning for balanced literacy.

According to Davis, the sessions were extremely informative and helpful.

“It was easy to see just how important literacy is to all content areas. It is more than about increasing levels but ensuring students can read, listen, speak and write,” said Davis. “Once students and teachers master that thinking, academic achievement is bound to increase.”