Open Court Reading from McGraw-Hill Education Helps Students in Tennessee Catch Up in Reading Proficiency: Systematic Reading Program Provides Strong Literacy Foundation for Elementary Students

District Administration, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Open Court Reading from McGraw-Hill Education Helps Students in Tennessee Catch Up in Reading Proficiency: Systematic Reading Program Provides Strong Literacy Foundation for Elementary Students


Educators in Bradley County Schools in Cleveland, Tennessee, were faced with some staggering numbers: 48 percent of third-grade students were reading on grade level. That meant five out of every 10 were not.

"We were above the state average of 43 percent," says Terri Murray, supervisor of Federal Programs/Media Services for the district where 10 of 11 K-5 schools are Title I. "But still, 48 was not good enough for us."

She and her district colleagues set a goal of 90 percent of third-graders reading at grade level by 2021, and investigated programs to help get them there. They chose Open Court Reading from McGraw-Hill Education, which had proven successful in a Washington State district they had contacted. After one full year of using Open Court Reading in all K-2 classrooms, Bradley County has seen gains in those three grades, says Traci Blackburn, the district's ELA coordinator of K-12 education. Third grade was added to the district this year, and fourth and fifth grades are scheduled to follow, to ultimately cover all 4,300 students in K-5.

Predictable patterns

"We chose Open Court because we needed consistency," Blackburn says. "When students go from one classroom to another, they know the routines and procedures. And the foundational skills and the rigor of the text have been key."

Systematic instruction routines are taught and modeled using predictable patterns that students can identify and remember. The K-5 reading, writing and language arts curriculum includes differentiated instruction, English language learner support, and an inquiry/higher-order thinking strand and writing strand.

"Open Court starts with phonemic awareness and foundational skills and then goes right into letter names and letter sounds," Murray says.

"We're actually teaching kids spelling patterns and sound spellings and how to spell different patterns of words," adds Blackburn. …

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