District Adopts Science of Reading
In June 2021, the Connecticut legislature passed the “Right to Read'' legislation. This legislation systematizes a statewide response to teaching reading based on the Science of Reading research. RSD17 was already ahead of the game, having begun the roll out of the Science of Reading in 2017 and reaping the benefits of this teaching methodology.
“One of the most amazing things is that we have not seen a COVID slide at the elementary level because we've been implementing the science of reading, and our intervention programs align with our classroom instruction,” said Jennifer Beermuender, Curriculum Coordinator for Language Arts and Social Studies. “Our students are performing better than ever.”
Evidence of this success can be seen in both RSD17 elementary schools, which were named Schools of Distinction for landing in the top 10% of academic achievement in the State.
The Reading League defines the Science of Reading as a vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based research about reading and issues related to reading and writing. This research has been conducted over the last five decades across the world, and it is derived from thousands of studies conducted in multiple languages.
“The science of reading is teaching us about the different components that go into a skilled reader and it’s telling us that we need to have really strong foundational reading skills in place,” said Jennifer.
Historically, reading was taught using a “balanced literacy” approach, however this approach missed critical foundational skills, like phonics.
RSD17 has adopted Science of Reading-based instructional changes to address these foundational skill gaps, including the use of decodable text. Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships to correctly pronounce written words.
“You teach students the phonics skills they need and then the decodable text is where they actually practice their decoding skills,” said Jennifer. “In the past we didn't have decodable readers, so we were putting kids in books that matched their reading level and there were a lot of kids having to use context or a picture to guess a word.”
Another important aspect within the Science of Reading is building students’ background knowledge.
“What the research is showing is that students’ background knowledge and vocabulary play a very important role in their comprehension,” said Jennifer. “For example, if two children are reading the same text about baseball and one has a lot of background knowledge on baseball and the other one doesn't, the child with the background knowledge about baseball will be able to read and comprehend that text at a higher level.”
RSD17’s new reading curriculum will immerse students in a content-rich study. All students will read common text and learn the content together, which will make them better readers and writers.
“The programs that we've chosen are the best of the best for each component of reading,” said Jennifer.
Although RSD17 adopted the Science of Reading many years ago, all components have not been implemented at all grade levels. The 2023-24 proposed budget supports the programs continued roll out including providing every classroom the necessary curriculum, materials, and teacher professional development and support. By supporting every teacher we guarantee that every student receives highly reliable instruction.