Back to School Pittsburgh Schools to Accentuate Reading Fluency for Youngest Students

By Conway, Madeline R | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

Back to School Pittsburgh Schools to Accentuate Reading Fluency for Youngest Students


Conway, Madeline R, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Julie King, a second-grade teacher at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, is returning to the classroom this year with new goals in mind for her students.

After the students arrive today, Ms. King will focus on helping them read more fluently out loud. She'll incorporate songs, poetry and partner reading into her daily instruction and monitor her students' progress along the way.

Teaching her students to read is just one part of Ms. King's job, but according to Brian Smith, Pittsburgh Public Schools' executive director of strategic priorities, it's critical. A child's third- grade reading level is a key predictor of later academic success, and as the school district strives for more of its students to read proficiently by third grade, it's refocusing efforts on the literacy of its youngest students.

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. "This is a tremendously hard job for our teachers, and it is extremely critical that we do everything we can to help and empower them to do that job successfully."

Lisa Yonek, the district curriculum supervisor in reading, added that administrators hoped that the LETRS programming would supplement the previous training that teachers have received in the subject. …

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Back to School Pittsburgh Schools to Accentuate Reading Fluency for Youngest Students
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