For the past decade, Upper Arlington Schools has set the standard for literacy instruction by building a strong foundation for success for early readers.
By working closely with families and specifically those with children experiencing dyslexia, the district has bolstered its literacy framework with phonemic awareness and phonics-based instruction that lays the foundation for lifelong reading skills.
Upper Arlington Schools has also been at the table to craft a new law - Ohio House Bill 436 - that outlines the components of literacy screening for students and training for teachers in order to identify any student who shows the markers of dyslexia and monitor their progress.
In addition, the district has been working with the Ohio Department of Education and other districts that are leaders in this area to update kindergarten reading standards and will focus on the foundational reading skills needed and appropriate for this age group.
At the heart of this work is the district’s long-standing commitment to educating and supporting the whole child. It’s that commitment that has led Upper Arlington Schools to take this work a step further — by introducing a new literacy framework that incorporates the scientific research into how children learn to read in order to create a successful outcome for every student.
“We’re simply shifting our approach and continuing to improve in how we approach literacy and teach reading for every student,” said Michelle Banks, director of curriculum and instruction.
Literacy, or the ability to read and write, is the foundation for all learning, and kindergarten is a critical time for laying the groundwork for this important skill set. The adoption of this new framework builds on the phonemic awareness and phonics-based approach that was adopted about a decade ago and coincides with the district’s transition to all-day kindergarten, which gives teachers more time to develop students’ skills in this key area of academics.
“We know through scientific research that all children learn how to read the same way but at different paces,” Banks said. “Some children could learn to read in the dark, because they know and understand the process. And there are other kids who need explicit instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness in order to become successful readers.”
This instructional practice puts an emphasis on science behind reading by teaching phonemic awareness, the idea of learning how sounds fit together to form words. A key part of instruction will be the district’s new multi-tiered system of support framework, which puts the structures in place to support differentiated and personalized learning for every student.
“Our work in the area of literacy is a testament to our mission of challenging and supporting every student, every step of the way and to our strategic commitment to continuous improvement — the idea of always striving to be better, even as we’re a leader in the work,” Banks said.