Michigan students are returning to school. This year, there's a huge push to ensure all third graders can read proficiently by the end of the year. Those who can't will be held back in 2019. This summer, elementary teachers spent much of their time preparing for the new standard.
WKAR Education Reporter Kevin Lavery speaks with WKAR Director of Education Robin Pizzo about the training Michigan teachers received over the summer.
This summer in particular a lot of that focus has been on literacy. A lot of districts have done a lot of “train the trainer” sessions on reading skills, as well as how to develop the individualized reading intervention plans that will be put in place based on the third grade reading law.
You’ve lived in this world; you’re a former public school teacher. You taught in the Lansing school district, and you come from that curriculum background. What was going through your mind in the days when you were getting a literacy curriculum together, trying to figure out “how do I get my kids where they have to be?”
We spend a lot of time in the summer thinking about those students whom we’ve had in the past and how we differentiated learning for them to make certain gains and create some achievement for them...and then, the upcoming students. With that comes a lot of reading; looking at new texts to bring into the classroom to engage on a larger scale or more effective scale. It’s great that teachers are being able to get some support with professional development on literacy and essential reading skills. All throughout this summer I’ve seen a lot of that happening in a lot of districts throughout our state.
This summer, I spoke with a former teacher, (Ingham ISD’s) Shelley Proebstle, who spent many years in the classroom. She’s now a literacy coach. I asked her to try to explain what some of these essential elements are when we talk about literacy; what that really means. She outlined a few things that go into making sure a student is literate:
“Those essential practices focus on read aloud, motivations to read, small group instruction, phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, parent involvement and assessment...driving all of the instruction.”
There’s a lot to unpack there. Is there any particular point that really seems to get at the heart of communicating literacy?
Comprehension is one of the staples to literacy. I used to always tell my students all the time, you never quit learning how to read.
“What can parents do to really be empowered to be partners with their child and with teachers to stand up and have a voice in their child’s education?
I think you said it. The word “empowered.” To be able to feel comfortable in asking questions and saying to a teacher, “what’s happening? Give me some supports. Is there a way that I can learn alongside my child so that I can help continue to support them with resources at home to support the classroom instruction. For teachers...I feel like teachers are burdened with having to understand and juggle and differentiate so much on behalf of this new reading law. And I think one of the things that they need to have within the system is that continued support; that this is accomplishable, that continued understanding that we recognize all of the work that goes into it and what supports are needed to have those needs met.