Early Readers to Lifelong Leaders
This is a guest post written by Ruth Thomas, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist and Chelsey Watkins, Assistant Head of Lower School
Why is a quality EARLY childhood education so important to literacy?
Ravenscroft’s partnership with the Center For Creative Leadership took root from the recognition that businesses are readily identifying needed skills lacking in today’s college graduates. Business leaders from across the nation are now coming together to discuss this very topic — specifically the belief that the U.S. must improve literacy rates in early education.
Recently, the Business Roundtable task-force, led by local CEO, Jim Goodnight of SAS, published a very compelling report entitled “Why Reading Matters and What To Do About It.” With business leaders like Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy’s and Lynn J. Good, Chairman, President and CEO of Duke Energy Corporation, the report affirmed one crucial point: future CEOs and leaders of industry are cultivated during the earliest years of education.
Emphasizing the importance of improved U.S. literacy rates, the report cites nationwide statistics: “Half of U.S. millennials failed to demonstrate proficient Literacy in 2015” and “only 1 in 3 American students currently demonstrates reading proficiency in 4th and 8th grades.”
The report reminds us how important the earliest years of education are for a young child.
It also gives us an opportunity to share WHY Ravenscroft’s Lower School is so special.
Ravenscroft is uniquely equipped to provide our young learners with exceptional reading instruction. Our approach to reading instruction in the Lower School aligns with and exceeds the key recommendations named in “Why Reading Matters and What To Do About It.” Our youngest Ravens are prepared for their life-long journey of learning and leading. They leave Lower School equipped with strong literacy skills – the ability to read, lead and succeed.
Ravenscroft’s Lower School Literacy Program is designed and delivered in a way that appropriately challenges our students. The program is based upon the following core elements:
1.) A strategic approach to instructional design
2.) Use of systematic data analysis
3.) Structured student support
Strategic Approach to Instructional Design
Harold Yoh III, CEO of Day & Zimmermann states, “It is critical that we provide educators with the training and guidance they need to help students become strong readers.”
At Ravenscroft, we have high expectations for our faculty and staff and we continually invest in their professional development to ensure we are meeting the academic needs of our students. Expert teachers, with the support of a school-based curriculum specialist, plan reading instruction during regularly scheduled Professional Learning Communities (PLC) with a strategic lens and intentional approach to designing classroom instruction. Regular blocks of time are set aside for teacher teams to engage in collaborative discussions that focus on student learning.
During PLC sessions, teachers focus on answering the following questions, and then design their classroom instruction and lessons based on their findings:
- What do we want Ravenscroft students to know and be able to do?
Ravenscroft teachers examine a variety of reading standards, objectives, skills and strategies to determine learning targets. These highly trained teachers have the autonomy to make instructional decisions that best meet the needs of our students.
- How will we know if each student is learning the skills we have deemed most essential?
Summative assessments are created to directly align with the established learning targets at each grade level. Examining the collective data empowers teachers to measure both individual student growth and grade level proficiency.
- How will we enrich and extend the learning of students who already meet or exceed expectations and what will we do when students need more support to meet expectations?
These questions are answered before instruction is planned or taught. Teachers determine methods of extending learning for students who have surpassed the current learning targets and design intervention strategies for students who need additional support to meet expectations.
Lower School teachers are trained to be the experts on your children and their academic needs. The PLC sessions provide the time and resources for teachers to reflect and collaborate on student learning. As a result, our Lower School students move on to Middle School reading well and thinking critically.
Use of Systematic Data Analysis
Ravenscroft PreK-fifth grade classroom teachers are trained to utilize a variety of reading assessment strategies that measure student progress along a research-based continuum of learning. As teachers analyze the data from the assessment tools, they are able to track individual student growth over the course of a school year, as well as their overall grade level proficiency based on literacy standards.
The insights gained from the data analysis shape and inform classroom instruction, allowing teachers to specifically address the literacy needs of each individual student.
Throughout the six years of Lower School, each student’s data is documented/recorded, and shared with parents, teachers and administrators. The combination of assessing individual student data and grade level trends allows our entire faculty and staff to outline differentiated pathways of learning.
“Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It” clearly calls for schools to follow a model similar to our model, by stating “[School systems] must develop data systems that follow children’s progress and allow for early interventions to keep children progressing toward literacy in third grade.” Ravenscroft is, and has been, systematically using data analysis of student progress to support literacy development – not only for intervention, but also for enrichment. And we will continue to do so setting an example for other schools to aspire to.
Structured Student Supports
Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc. shares “We know that parents and teachers encounter students at varying points along the pathway to reading proficiency. There are clear benefits to meeting these students where they are and offering them the individualized attention they need to keep up, catch up when necessary, and claim the reading skills they will need for a lifetime of learning.”
Ravenscroft’s teachers recognize that students progress at varying rates “along a pathway of reading proficiency,” and actively offer individualized attention within daily classroom instruction.
Every class in Lower School follows a workshop model to deliver literacy experiences. The workshop model is research-based that scaffolds whole group, small group and individualized teacher/student interactions. These interactions are grounded in ongoing teacher observations, collaborative planning and data evaluation. Teachers are not tied to a specific text and/or program; instead, they are focused on student needs and have the professional autonomy to try innovative strategies to meet those needs.
A quote often referenced cites, “From birth to third grade, students are learning to read. From third grade and beyond, students are reading to learn.” Ravenscroft takes a stronger view: All reading is defined as constructing meaning from text. All students, even the very youngest, read in order to make meaning of their world. The work that we are doing in Lower School solidifies each student’s reading proficiency so that he or she can cultivate a critical understanding of the world.
Each and every day, Ravenscroft is focused on developing avid and proficient readers. We have put into place a literacy program that focuses on strategic and intentional classroom instructional design, based on systematic data analysis of our students performance and we deliver it in a robust classroom environment. We are developing readers who will lead themselves, lead with others and change their world.
If you would like to learn more about Ravenscroft’s Lower School Literacy Program or see it in action, please contact the Lower School Leadership Team or Ruth Thomas, Lower School Curriculum and Instruction Specialist.
Image from: http://businessroundtable.org/why-reading-matters