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15 Essential Terms in Early Childhood Educational Equity

Achieving equity in education is a crucial goal for all organizations. 

Sprig Learning is one among many. Our ultimate mission and purpose is to provide every child with a fair shot at success, by uncovering and supporting their unique learning strengths, needs and interests. 

However, navigating the field of early childhood education can be challenging, with a constantly evolving lexicon of terms and concepts.

Words have power. 

Researchers, professors, administrators, and practitioners in early childhood education use hundreds of terms that shape the discourse on equity in education, and ultimately lead to policies that drive change. 

New words and concepts are constantly emerging, but it can be difficult to understand their meaning and relevance.

It’s important to understand the relevant terms and concepts used in the field of equity in education. 

By having a clear understanding of these terms, it becomes easier to find the right tools, resources and solutions.

Want to know more about the relevant terms and concepts? This article goes over 15 essential terms in early childhood educational equity. Let’s dive in.

 

The Essential Terms To Advance Equity in Early Childhood Education

These terms will focus on early education, and not early childcare. While they are often grouped together, there are distinct differences between the two.

Words like “child-care access” and “community-based child care” focus on the practical aspect of finding caregivers, rather than on learning.

Ensuring equal access to opportunities is important, but it is the delivery of the program to each child that ensures equity. 

Quality programs are those that provide proper differentiated instruction and leave no child behind.

These terms focus on achieving equity in early learning by increasing the quality of programs.

 

1. Accommodation.

Refers to the adjustments made in standards and assessment tools to allow certain students to learn and demonstrate their learning in their own way. 

However, the content of learning is not changed for them, it follows a curriculum. Rather, the process of learning is adapted to suit the student’s needs, such as difficulty with the English language.

When deciding on a tool to improve early learning quality, it’s best to see how it differentiates instruction from the teacher’s point of view, and personalizes learning from the child’s point of view. Both are equally important. 

 

2. Adult-child ratio.

Refers to the appropriate number of early education educators for a certain class size.

 The Administration For Children & Families in the US recommends 1 trained adult for 6-10 preschoolers (aged 3-5) and 1 trained adult for 10-12 school age children (aged 5 and above). 

It also recommends a maximum class size of 12 and 24 students for the two categories above, meaning each class should be managed by two educators. 

The Canadian Child Care Federation recommends a 1:8 ratio of adults to preschoolers.

The preferred scenario is smaller class sizes, where each educator can devote their full attention to the students.

As the adult-to-child ratio is so crucial, it’s beneficial to have a tool that will lessen some of the administrative duties for teachers working in large classrooms.  

It’s also important to understand how any technology or resource will be used by the lead teacher and the co-teacher. 

Ask yourself, how is a tool suited to any of these 6 styles of co-teaching?

 

3. After School Program.

Refers to programs serving school children outside of school hours, also known as out-of-school time programs. 

Childhood is a valuable time. 

It can be said that too many organized after school programs such as recreational activities, mentoring or social clubs can unnecessarily tax the development of young children. 

Afterall, the school is supposed to be a place to work on other developmental domains besides just cognition and language. Physical and socio-emotional development cannot be relegated to other programs. 

But, depending on the strategy of each school district, certain support systems may be created outside of school hours that make it easier for the parents to manage their child’s schedules and ensure they are developing holistically. 

When choosing a resource or platform to increase the quality of early learning, it’s best to understand how its usage transitions from the school to the home. 

 

4. At Risk.

Refers to those students who may need additional support for their child development and learning. 

It’s important to identify children “at risk” early on, so necessary interventions, supports and measures can be taken. 

Most brain development happens between birth and age 8, so it’s crucial to provide support at this stage early on.

Risk factors include lower soci-economic status, community conditions and experiences, and lack of access to high-quality education. 

By choosing to improve the quality of early learning, the at-risk factors can be mitigated to some degree. 

 More holistic and comprehensive screening and assessment tools can also support young at-risk learners.   Such tools can help  apply a 360 degree account of the students needs, interests and challenges that reflect multiple learning environments. 

 

5. Attachment.

Refers to the deep emotional connection between a parent or caregiver, and a child. 

Human connections contribute to the child’s overall sense of wellbeing. It is an indicator of healthy child development and learning. 

Technology is a poor substitute for the emotional bonding that can happen between an adult and a child in their formative years. That being said, the context matters in which a particular tool or resource is being used. There are 4 attachment styles, of which secured attachment is the best. 

Technology can also be used to encourage parental involvement or promote activities that work on establishing secure attachment between the child and the people who care for, and  educate them. 

 

6. Continuity of Care.

This is a term that is more commonly associated with child care and it refers to the transitions from one person or setting to another person or setting. 

However, it can also be applied to early education. Preschool programs are a type of setting where the young student spends a considerable amount of time. 

Maintaining constancy in the kind of individuals and environments with which the child interacts during his or her early years enhances brain growth and learning.

When deciding tools and resources that  improve quality in early childhood education, see if they focus on maintaining this continuity where educators, parents and any other caregivers are able to collaborate on the best outcome for the child. 

 

7. Cultural Competence.

Refers to the incorporation of cultural knowledge, customs and language of a particular group of people into the educational standards, policies and practices. 

Classes are more diverse than ever before. 

Thus the need for cultural competence is at an all time high. Understanding the community of learners and their contexts can support the development of appropriate culturally responsive materials. 

In order to advance quality in early learning programs, it’s best to confirm if culturally appropriate learning materials are available that are reflective of the student body.

 

8. Curriculum.

Refers to an outline of what children will be learning, and the learning materials and processes available to them to achieve those learning outcomes. 

Having a set outline, course content and process for learning seems straightforward, but often, only general guidelines are released. This leaves a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to implementing the curriculum. 

The learning outcomes are perhaps the most rigid aspect of the curriculum, because they are developed and agreed upon by the local, regional or national governing bodies on education. However, such curriculum guides can be general in nature. There is much room for input from the school board, directors of curriculum, and building-level teachers and administrators.

Solution providers can step in to make this “top-down but flexible” process easier on the schools. 

It’s good to understand if the solution has actually made their own version of the curriculum, or if it promises to align to the local, state or provincial curriculum. 

 

9. Developmental Domains.

The wide range of research defines somewhere between four to seven developmental domains, which refer to the specific aspects of growth and change in young children. 

Attached to these developmental domains are developmental milestones. 

They allow educators, parents and caregivers to keep track of appropriate development or intervene when there is a cause for concern. 

A lot of research has been conducted that connects reaching the developmental milestones to success in later life in what is known as developmental outcomes. 

There are other determinants as well such as family income and health, but developmentally appropriate early education is certainly a leading indicator of success. 

It’s best to find a tool that has mechanisms in place to understand the unique personality of every child, their learning style and their family background. Activities, practices, settings and behaviors can be modified to match the learning needs of the student. 

While language, cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development are standard domains, adaptive/self-help and spiritual/moral domains are more rare. A holistic learning approach considers all of the above. 

 

10. Executive Function.

Refers to cognitive skills that help children regulate their behavior such as their ability to focus, remember instruction and control certain inhibitions to complete a task.

Executive function is extremely important in early childhood education as there is a strong connection to both academic and social success. 

Before choosing a learning solution or resources, it’s a good idea to ask what activities or exercises are offered to promote executive function. 

 

11. Bias.

Bias in early childhood education can be both implicit and explicit

Implicit bias is an automatic or unconscious reaction someone has toward other people. With explicit bias, individuals are aware of their prejudices and attitudes toward certain groups.

While it’s not possible to get rid of bias completely, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate it. Using more culturally responsive assessments and having an assessment process that considers more viewpoints are great tactics in the battle against bias in early learning.

When picking a tool or platform, it helps to know how inclusive and culturally responsive the assessment process is. 

Perhaps it’s not an out-of-the-box solution due to the level of customization that is needed, but it is definitely reassuring to know if such arrangements can be made. 

 

12. Motor Skills.

Refers to fine motor skills and gross motor skills. 

Fine motor skills involve control of the small muscles in the body to complete activities like drawing or writing. Gross motor skills involve control of the large muscles in the body for activities such as running and jumping.

Motor skills are absolutely crucial for early education because physical development is a big part of growth. Cognitive and socio-emotional skills enable early learners to conceptualize and solve problems or acquire early literacy and numeracy, but in order to perform certain activities that show those skills, motor skills are needed.

Also, young students have a lot of energy, which is why play-based learning has emerged as one of the most popular learning styles in preschools and kindergartens. 

To boost quality in early learning programs, it cannot be all desk-based or stationary activities. There has to be a healthy mix of mobile activities, both inside and outside the classroom. 

 

13. Observational Tools.

Refers to instruments that are used to assess and communicate the level of quality in early education programs. 

Classroom assessment scoring systems and environment rating scales are used in the US to improve the quality of teacher effectiveness and learning environment respectively. The Federal Secretariat on Early Learning in Canada also recommends these two scales to measure quality.

If you plan to use observational methods at your school, it’s helpful to know the degree of quality and the sort of quality that will be measured. For example, 30 years of research papers on the subject were reviewed to reveal that good staff-to-child interactions and development-focused curricula were the best drivers of process quality.

14. Parent Involvement.

Refers to the active participation of the parents in the child’s education. 

It requires communication between the parents and the child’s educators. When this communication extends to a relationship with regular interactions, it is known as family engagement. 

It’s ideal if a quality improvement platform is able to measure parental involvement. 

 

15. Protective Factors.

Refers to the characteristics that counteract the effects of risk factors in early learning. One in six children face developmental problems at school entry. 

To minimize this risk, protective factors include community and social support and knowledge of parenting and child development.

Examine whether your solution uses a strengths-based approach, which aims to emphasize all of the positive aspects of healthy development rather than focusing on the downsides.

Of course, at-risk factors will exist for some children. However, it is the reaction to those risk variables that will determine the final outcome.

 

The Short of It — Internalizing All The Terms

There were plenty of terms that were left out in this document because of their overly technical nature. These include: terms relating to funds, or terms related to the various types of child care that do not specifically speak to any educational quality component. 

At the end of the day, achieving equity is a long-term oriented goal.

To begin the arduous task of closing opportunity gaps, it’s helpful to understand the relevant terms that determine the quality of education in an early childhood setting. 

Only when these concepts are properly understood, they can be fine-tuned in an existing program or included in a new program. The end result is quality enhancement.  

When the quality of early childhood education is raised, there is a higher chance of any existing accessibility and equality translating into equity.

Sprig Learning builds culturally relevant resources and assessments to provide a holistic learning experience to all students. To learn more about how your program can address inequity in early learning, give us a shout.

How to Create High-Quality Head Start Preschools for Early Learning

Do high-quality preschools exist? Yes, but mostly for higher-income families. 

According to Emily Griffey, Policy Director of Voices for Virginia’s Children, there is a 19-point disparity between the percentages of high-income and low-income families that can afford preschool for their children.

There are many initiatives to expand accessibility to public Head Start preschools, but such accessibility has to be matched with quality, or there is a risk of perpetuating the cycle of inequity.

In this blog, Sprig argues the case for high-quality preschools, addresses the issue of accessibility, and then gives the indications and characteristics that would be required to create a high-quality public or private early learning program.

 

The Case for High-Quality Preschools

In her essay for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Taryn Morrissey narrows down the major reasons that warrant greater policy attention to early education.

To summarize, high-quality education:

  • promotes child development and learning, and reduces inequities for those in disadvantaged communities. 
  • helps parental employment by providing a safe and quality environment for learning for their kids. 
  • forms the necessary backbone of the economic infrastructure.

 

Thus, high-quality preschools have both a short-term and long-term impact on school children and their communities. 

The community is able to thrive knowing that the child is growing in a safe and excellent setting that is favourable to learning. 

As the child grows older, there is a net spillover effect, where they contribute to the larger economy.

A study of 22 longitudinal studies, conducted between 1960 and 2016, showed that the attendees of early childhood education programs were:

  • less likely to be placed in special education
  • less likely to be held back a grade
  • more likely to graduate from high school 

 

These positive outcomes demonstrate that, when available, high-quality preschools make a huge difference in early learning.

 

Are There Enough High-Quality Preschools?

It’s tough to say if there is a shortage of preschools. Invariably, every preschool classroom does not fill the capacity of the maximum of 20 children per two trained adults, as recommended by the Office of Child Care in the US. However, even when this happens, quality can be impacted as more children require increased teacher attention. 

In the US, state-funded preschool and Head Start programs serve less than 1 in 3 eligible early learners. 

The National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) says that the quality standards remain “far too low” for these programs, and were only exacerbated by the pandemic. As low-income families weigh their options, homeschooling or daycare may seem like better alternatives if the quality of preschools garners a bad reputation. 

Which prompts the question….

 

What Does High-Quality Early Childhood Education Look Like?

High-quality preschools are both academic and play-based. A high-quality curriculum is specifically designed to present skills and concepts to schoolchildren in an order that matches their level of development.

In the process, formative assessments are used to address achievement gaps in underperforming students. It increases student engagement and leads to greater teacher satisfaction.

Hence, high-quality preschools do not merely focus on providing the best early childhood education experience, but also have innate differentiated instruction to cater to the needs of every child in the classroom. 

 

High-Quality Indicators

There are scales available to measure the quality of preschools such as the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS).

The ECERS contains 35 items organized into 6 categories of Space and Furnishings, Personal Care Routines, Language and Literacy, Learning Activities, Interaction and Program Structure.

The focus is on building oral language as foundational literacy concepts and moving to reading when appropriate. 

The Language and Literacy category includes “helping children expand vocabulary”, “encouraging children to use language”, “encouraging children’s use of books” and  “becoming familiar with print”. 

Also, under Learning Activities, the promotion of diversity and the appropriate use of technology are suggested. Tools like Sprig Library combine these recommendations into one effective and culturally responsive learning experience.  The app offers interactive story books that support oral language development, while introducing Indigenous themes, illuminating diversity.

An equal mix of self-learning and group learning is ideal for high-quality preschool programs. 

As seen in the ECERS scale: to address self-learning, “space for privacy” appears under the Space and Furnishings category, and “individualized teaching and learning” appears under Interaction. 

To address group-learning, peer learning is recommended under Interaction, and “whole-group activities” is listed under Program Structure.

 

The High-Quality Checklist

The NIEER recommends the following considerations when building a high-quality preschool program. A high-quality preschool Head Start program must:

  • cultivate positive relationships between teachers and children.
  • adequately equip the classroom with sufficient materials and toys. 
  • ensure regular communication that involves mutual listening, responding and encouragement to use reasoning and problem solving.
  • offer opportunities for multiple kinds of play.
  • provide materials and activities to promote understanding of diversity.
  • nurture parental involvement in the program.

 

Additionally, The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a staff to child ratio of 1:10 for preschools, with a maximum class size of 20 students. 

Furthermore, the fair compensation and professional development for all teachers and staff are very important components of administering and maintaining a high-quality preschool program. 

Wherever they are not compensated adequately and on equal terms with K-12 educators, there is a higher risk of turnover

 

Need for Consistency and Assurance

 

Consistency of Early Educational Experience

Literacy assessment data from the US show that almost half of kindergartners were falling below grade-level benchmarks partway through the 2020-2021 year. The setbacks were more pronounced in marginalized communities. 

This is a case where the quality of preschools fell short of expectations. The data shows that preschoolers need consistent in-person interaction with educators.

Whenever this consistent learning environment is uprooted (due to any natural calamities or a global pandemic), it’s important to have a contingency plan in place that uses hybrid or remote learning, depending on how soon it’s safe to go back to school. 

 

Assurance of High-Quality

The rate of return on human capital investment is at its highest from birth to age 5. When children attend any sort of structural school system for the first time, it’s important that they receive the best education and are assured of continuing in the program.

There can be a trade-off sometimes between targeting skills and the whole child. While it’s true that targeting specific skills such as literacy and numeracy increases achievement in those areas, a whole child curriculum is often better at ensuring quality of classroom processes.

It doesn’t have to be either-or. With holistic learning, you tend to the whole child by involving their teachers, parents and the community to support their needs and safety. But you also focus on particular academic skills by offering leveled activities that are fun to do. 

 

Looking Ahead

There is help available to build high-quality Head Start preschools or transform existing preschools into a high-quality Head Start program. However, while there is more funding to increase accessibility, it must be matched with increased quality. 

Sprig believes that the indications, checklist, and considerations described in this article can be used to establish both new and upgraded high-quality preschools and head start programs.

30 Amazing Early Learning Statistics From 0 to 100!

In early learning, there are so many statistics that often get used and recycled to emphasize certain points. 

It’s a good exercise to pause, step back and reflect on the messages conveyed by each statistic. This allows you to identify trends and  general early learning patterns.

Early learning, also known as early childhood education, refers to the education a child receives from birth to age 8. Age 8 roughly corresponds to the grade 3 in most school systems. 

 

Early Learning Statistics and Commentary

These  early learning statistics, starting from zero, all the way to a hundred, are divided into 10 sections. As statistics can be spun in many different ways, Sprig Learning provides commentary on each number.

 

0 and Up

Early learning begins at birth! There are developmental milestones listed as early as 2 months. Early Head Start Programs serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3. It shows why there is a need for systematic education for that age group. 

 

This additional $1 billion brings the total Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3) funding to above $10 billion for 2021. 

 

The pandemic affected all facets of life, including early childhood education. In the crucial early years of development, the 2 missed months of learning can have a compounded effect later on, if not addressed. 

 

  • Only 10 % of 3-5 year olds remained in the same program on the same pre-pandemic schedule during the pandemic.

Only 1 out of 10 schoolchildren had any sense of continuity during the course of COVID-19. Again, the threat of discontinuity and inconsistency of education in the early years is something that should be examined more closely.

 

  • Children’s academic success at ages 9 and 10 are determined by the amount of conversation they heard from birth to age 3

There are multiple variations of this one statistic, but it demonstrates the necessity of parental involvement in the early years to instill oral communication in their children. Development of oral language is an important indicator of success in the later years. 

 

The 10s

This is extremely important to take into account, not because of the lack of importance of special education (which is very much needed), but the costs of special education placements and the fact that such placements are preventable via early enrollment.

 

  • Students from minority communities attended school districts that received nearly 13% less state and local funding compared to those school districts that had fewer students of colour. 

Education inequity cannot be swept under the rug. With the expansion of high-quality and affordable early learning programs, there is hope that such inequity will dissipate over time. Proper early childhood assistance is an amazing equalizer in terms of school readiness.

 

Supporting the last point, this is again a reminder that attending and progressing from preschool to Grade 3 is linked to academic success later on. Thus, it’s very important to extend whatever support that is necessary during this time period. 

 

Before one can even graduate highschool, it is important that they progress through each grade. This further establishes the link between enrolling early into a school system and successful graduation years later. 

 

The benefits of preschool attendance do not stop at academic success. When considering everything the child eventually contributes to the economy and the society, the ROI is thoroughly justified.

 

The 20s

Education resources, both inside and outside the classroom, are so important to early childhood development. Books are one of the best sources for learning, which can be read to kids, and which kids can learn to read themselves. 

 

  • Pre-k enrollment during the pandemic in the US declined by 22%.

Given everything that is discussed thus far on the importance of pre-k, it is discouraging to see that a major catastrophe such as a pandemic or natural disaster can discourage enrollment in pre-k. Even if remote learning can be arranged at such times, situational stress and safety concerns seem to have a discouraging effect on enrollment.

 

The 30s

 There are other forms of learning, besides just cognitive, which have a tremendous impact on both academic and non-academic success for a child. 

 

In the very famous study conducted by Hart and Risely, where children from wealthier families were exposed to more words in an hour compared to children from less wealthier families, the difference added up to a gap by the time both groups turned 4. 

Admittedly, the statistic is worded to provide maximum shock, but the point still stands. Expanding vocabulary in the early years is paramount. 

 

After all aforementioned benefits of preschool, the fact remains that a sizable chunk of children are not enrolled in preschool.  The reasons for this are wide-ranging. Understanding them would address the causes of education inequity. 

 

The 40s

There are positive and negative externalities of early childhood education. Most of the positives have been mentioned such as graduating high school and becoming a productive member of society. 

It also helps to look at what can be avoided, such as crime. This happens when young students are beneficiaries of an education program that goes beyond just academics and teaches them values.

 

No early learning program is successful without effective teachers. When teachers have the right resources and infrastructure, they are able to do their work well and make a huge difference in early learning. 

 

Almost half of the 3 year old children in the US were not enrolled in preschool in 2020. This is in contrast 34% of 4 year olds who were not enrolled in preschool. It makes sense that the older children get, the greater the likelihood they will be admitted to school. 

But on the heels of everything mentioned in this article about the importance of starting early, there is a lot more work to be done in providing access to high-quality education to 3 year olds.

 

The 50s

Pound for pound, books are one of the best resources for learning. Not worksheets, or tablets, but traditional paper books. They are designed to fast-track learning and provide a type of learning experience that is more permanent. It’s why here at Spig Learning, levelled readers and storybooks are such an essential part of our early learning programs.

 

The 60s

Remote learning may be great as a contingency plan, but it is not the preferred method for teaching. Transitioning out of the pandemic, both students and teachers would favour in-person classrooms for high-quality learning. 

 

This speaks to the intergenerational nature of the inequity in education. It’s been found that when two successive generations of people are educated by the Head Start Program, the latter generation fares better because of improved parenting from previous Head Start attendees.

 

The 70s

  • 70% of elementary school principals say that they could not meet their students’ mental health needs with the staff they had.

This is why educating the whole child is so important, rather than focusing on academics only. Holistic learning is a great approach that focuses on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual side of growth which can mitigate any emergent conditions later on.

 

  • In NYC, the lowest annual fee for a private school is $1280, while the highest is $72,725.

Based on all these statistics, it’s clear that there is a need for preschool. Sprig Learning has written on the qualities that make a high-quality preschool program. This statistic however looks at the private sector, and it demonstrates just how much value can be added on to a program in terms of quality.

 

Inequity emerges again as a major issue, as kids from families who make less income are less prepared for kindergarten. Assistance is required. There is a window of opportunity to address this discrepancy in the early years of learning.

 

Beyond education, providing a high-quality learning environment helps families as well who can trust that their children are being well looked after. It strengthens families by allowing them to better manage their time, and giving them confidence knowing they are being supported by teachers and the greater community. Learn how community plays a key role in holistic learning

 

The 80s

Previously, we saw that children from higher income families are better prepared when entering school. This statistic is an extension of that, which shows exactly how those who enter kindergarten “ready to learn”, can then benefit from the schooling that is provided.

 

  • By age 3, approximately 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. 

This is a throwback to the beginning of the article that zoomed in on early development. Indeed, most of the brain develops by age 3, the age when most kids enroll into preschool. Learning truly begins in the home. It is best when early learning programs include a learn-at-home component through which parents are supported to help their child’s learning at home.  

 

The 90s

  • There is a 90% likelihood that, in the absence of additional instructional support,  a poor reader in 1st grade will remain a poor reader.

This is a chilling statistic that shows how important preschool and kindergarten are for taking corrective measures to optimize the learning capacity of a child. It’s good to have multiple formative assessments during that period of learning, to identify all learning opportunities before it’s too late.

 

A teachers’ role in the early learning process simply cannot be understated. There is curriculum, content and methods of assessment, but it’s the teacher who varies instruction in all these areas to best educate a young student according to their unique abilities. 

 

  • Over 100 activities were conducted across Canada by Indigenous organizations and the government of Canada to inform a better understanding of existing Indigenous early learning and child care systems.

While most of the earlier statistics mention the need for high-quality early learning programs, it is not possible to achieve quality with the considerations of all stakeholders.

When designing early learning programs, respecting the various diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of communities is extremely important. 

 

Main Takeaways

That brings the article to a close. Hard hitting early learning numbers, from zero to hundred. Going through all of the statistics offers a lot of takeaways. In summary:

 

  • There is so much research that points to the benefits of prioritizing high-quality education in the earlier years.  Starting early is crucial when it comes to educating young learners. It sets the foundation and tone for the rest of their student journey.

 

  • Inequity is linked to accessibility. Even if the benefits of early learning are thoroughly understood, expanding such programs to all remains a challenge. Certain high-quality aspects of the program might have to be scaled quickly. Sprig Learning can help with that. 

15 Incredible Stories of Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig Learning writes the Root to Fruit newsletter twice a month, covering all the latest news from early learning pertaining to projects, practices, announcements and educational equity. 

The 30th edition was sent out to readers yesterday. The last edition of the year will go out to subscribers on December 21. Subscribe now to be in the loop on all things early learning. 

In every Root to Fruit, educational equity has a separate section devoted to it, as so much of what Sprig is trying to do centers around raising equity in education. 

The educational equity section features stories on the gaps between different groups of students due to their own unique circumstances. It highlights stories that speak of this gap, and the efforts that are conceived and actions that are taken to reduce this gap. 

In particular, Sprig Learning centers its work around the persistent gaps for Indigenous learners. It is not only additional resources that are often needed to provide high-quality early learning, but support for the autonomy for Indigenous communities to preserve local customs, languages and cultures. 

This article presents 15 stories of revitalizing Indigenous education first featured on Root to Fruit, since the beginning of the last school year. 

 

Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

1. The Anishinabek Nation: Introduction of Teaching Tools for Topics Such as Treaty Education

Nov. 1-7 was Treaties Recognition Week in Canada. School boards across the country took this opportunity to continue their education on Indigenous subject matters, with relevant sessions about what a Treaty is and what reconciliation looks like. The Anishinabek Nation unveiled some new online teaching tools. The recommendation is that lessons about Treaties should begin in elementary school. Sprig has helped support the development of such lesson plans. 

 

2. Vancouver Island First Nation: Ability to Certify Own Teachers

Vancouver Island First Nation has accepted the education jurisdiction agreement and law-making protocol with the Government of Canada. This allows Cowichan Tribes to certify its own teachers, determine graduation certification and create its own curriculum. Marlene Tommy, a kindergarten and grade one teacher, says that students can “expect a more robust cultural education.” 

 

3. Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation: Expansion of Space to Promote Holistic Approach to Learning

The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are expanding Lloyd S. King elementary school. New classrooms will be added and local early learning centres will be brought under the same facility to establish the First Nation holistic approach to lifelong learning. The school principal and Chief say that this will provide a healthy and safe learning environment and promote the further development of a culturally-relevant curriculum.

 

4.The Rapid City Area Schools: Introduce of Immersion Programs to Rapidly Learn an Indigenous Language

Lakota Immersion pilot program is finding great success in Rapid City in South Dakota, a year after its launch.The Rapid City Area Schools are getting familiar with the program and are noticing instances of children learning much more quickly, whether it be in math, reading or the Lakota culture. Teachers say they learned a lot about language acquisition in kindergarten and the goal is for the program to expand by one grade level every year. Next year’s kindergarten program is at capacity at 20 students. 

 

5. Leo Ussak School: Creating the Right Learning Environment

Appolina Makkigak is one of the three recipients of the 2022 Inuit Language Award. A Grade 1 Inuktitut teacher at Leo Ussak School in Rankin Inlet, Appolina has been teaching for the past 5 years, and has innovated every year to keep the learning materials relevant. She has an Inuktitut word wall and speaks to her students about Inuit traditions. 

 

6. Great Falls Public Schools: Incorporating Hands-on Activities To Preserve Culture

Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) in Montana are looking to teach students about Indigenous culture through innovative programs. Using donation funds from the non-profit organization Sisters United, GFPS aims to offer cultural opportunities such as planting sweetgrass, going bison hunting, and hearing stories from elders. GFPS Director of Indigenous Education Dugan Coburn says that this will be a great way to represent the 51 different tribes in the Great Falls community. 

 

7. Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation: Building Schools in Close Proximity to Relevant Cultural Centres

A new elementary school was approved in Sagamok that will accommodate 201 students and be equipped with a gym, cafeteria, sciency room and library. The school site is located next to an Elder’s Lodge, so there will be more exposure to the Ojibwe language. 

Chief Alan Ozawanimiki says that the community’s future depends on “promoting an environment conducive to learning in a way that reflects both modern curriculum and Anishnawbe Aadziwin”. This is great news for the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in Ontario, as there will be more opportunities to strengthen relationships and build language.

 

8. The Mohegan Tribe: Creating a Stockpile of Resources to Teach Lesson Plans in New Curriculums

The Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut is set to launch the Educators Project, which is an Indigenous curriculum produced by the Mohegan Council of Elders and the tribe’s Cultural & Community Programs and Communications departments. Connecticut has mandated that starting with the 2023-2024 school year, each local and regional school board should focus on including Indigenous studies in the curriculum. Teacher resources, video assets and student tools are being developed to teach the different lesson plans in the curriculum. 

 

9. The Kainai Board of Education: Providing Opportunities for Teacher Collaboration

The Kainai Board of Education is building a new elementary school. Students will be learning the Alberta curriculum as well as the Blackfoot language and Indigenous history and culture. The new Aahsaopi Elementary School will be completed in January 2024. KBE Superintendent Cam Shade, is excited at the prospect of multiple grade levels being housed together and teachers collaborating to provide the best educational experience to students.

 

10. Kehkimin: Creating a School Dedicated to Language Immersion

The Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school is opening this fall at Killarney Park in Fredericton, New-Brunswick. The city has granted a one year lease to the school so it has access to the surrounding grounds for a land-based education. Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief, has worked in language education for 36 years. He has collaborated with Lisa Perley-Dutcher, Chair of the Board of Directors of the new school, to develop the curriculum. 

 

11. Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band: Acquiring Greater Autonomy for Curriculum Decision-making

The Canadian federal government and First Nations Education Steering Committee announced that the Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band were granted total autonomy over over its Kindergarten to Grade 12 education systems. This new autonomy means that the nations have complete law-making authority on the curriculum and certification of teachers

 

12. Saddle Lake Cree Nation: Including Land-based Learning Opportunities

The new Saddle Lake Cree Nation elementary school has an update. The construction project which began in March of this year, is expected to be completed in July 2023. Debra Cardinal, superintendent of the school, says “The design of the new school incorporates a connection to the Cree way of life and includes land-based learning opportunities”. The school will be developing its own curriculum with a strong focus on the Cree language and history. 

 

13. Red Deer Public School District: Using Books from Indigenous Authors

Red Deer Public School District in Alberta acknowledged Truth and Reconciliation Day by organizing various hands-on activities for their students, and incorporating themes into their lessons that taught about the impact of the residential schools system on Indigenous youth. For Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, age appropriate texts from Indigenous authors were used to teach the value of first teachings from family members. 

 

14. Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools: Creating Bilingual Programming for the Early Grades

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) works with the Saskatoon Tribal Council to provide Cree- and Michif-language options in schools. St. Michael Community School currently offers bilingual programming for Kindergarten and Grade 1. It plans to extend the program to Grade 2 next year. Cornelia Laliberte oversees GSCS’s Indigenous programming and hopes to add more resources for the Michif language, which is not as common as Cree.

 

15. The Elsie Fabian School: Employing Indigenous Educators and Staff

The Elsie Fabian School opened its doors in Fort McKay, Alberta, to approximately 140 students from the Fort McKay First and Métis Nations. The K-9 school will teach a modified version of the Alberta curriculum that includes the revitalization of Cree and Dene languages, and offer a land-based education. 70% of the school faculty is Indigenous, and includes positions such as library technician and literacy specialist. 

 

Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig will continue to feature such stories of Indigenous Education that demonstrate how education equity is being addressed in different Indigenous communities across North America. 

Understanding what other Nations, Tribes, and School Districts are doing allows us to draw inspiration and develop new projects to further the revitalization of Indigenous languages. Sprig is involved in many  such projects, working collaboratively with Indigenous educators, leaders and Elders. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.

46 Stories of Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools

Sprig covers all the latest Pre-K to 3 announcements, projects, practices and stories in its newsletter, Root to Fruit, twice a month. If you are interested in the latest early learning news and updates, definitely join as a reader, so you never miss an edition.

A common feature of the newsletter is covering stories which discuss schools, school districts and school boards continually innovating to raise early literacy achievement for their youngest learners. 

This information is curated fresh twice a month, vetted for relevance in the early education sector, and presented to Root to Fruit readers.

If you are a reader, you are accustomed to these stories. 

To celebrate the upcoming 30th edition of Root to Fruit on Dec 7th (subscribe today if you want to receive the edition on that day), Sprig has accumulated 46 stories from prior editions to demonstrate what can be done to improve early literacy achievement. 

For the benefit of those not subscribed yet, this article is a compilation of all stories on improving early literacy achievement in schools and preschools. It features reading instruction strategies, tactics and action plans that have been considered or instituted by schools and early learning centers.

It is important to note that all of these stories have come from schools or early learning centers, because stories from other stakeholders are also covered in Root to Fruit, which are pertinent to the improvement of early literacy. 

These include teachers from unnamed schools, state legislature, federal and state programs, stage offices, foundations, think tanks, researchers, academic institutions, assessment centers, teacher’s associations, journalists, etc.

But all of the news items in this article have come from identified schools/school boards/school districts and preschools/early learning centers.

The stories are divided into improving early literacy achievement in early learning centers/preschools (Stories 1 to 7) and schools/school districts/ school boards (stories 8 to 46). Where appropriate, certain stories have been lumped together where the recommendation or action taken is the same.

If you want to implement some of the solutions suggested in these stories, please do have a look at Sprig’s homepage, where you can find reading, oral language, math and Indigenous language solutions, depending on your needs. 

 

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Early Learning Centers/Preschools (Stories 1 to 7)

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Early Learning Centers, Preschools

 

1.The Saint Joseph Early Learning Center: Elongating Early Learning Instruction Time and Expanding Early Learning Options

The Saint Joseph Early Learning Center out of Missouri, USA is a consolidated preschool that has been well-received by the community. Children from multiple preschools were transferred into a single location, where students attend for a half day (either morning or afternoon). 

The school district is exploring a longer school day to take in more students who are turning 3 throughout the year. Location expansion is another option for the future, but currently this is the solution devised to handle the need for additional classrooms.

 

2. Brooklyn Kindergarten Society: Culturally Responsive High Quality Offerings

With preschool and kindergarten kids back at school, Melisha Jackman, executive director at early-childhood education provider Brooklyn Kindergarten Society talks about three strategic priorities she’s embracing for this school year: 1) be more “culturally responsive to the needs of their children”, 2) focus on “high quality offerings”, and 3) ensure the “ infusion of inquiry, learning and creativity” from teachers to students. 

 

3. Bright Horizons Program: Proactively Seeking Parental Involvement

Cheretta Triplett-Smith, Director of the Bright Horizons program in Chicago says that parents have a lot more information now when comparing high-quality early education programs. She makes it clear that Bright Horizon takes a whole child approach, which focuses on school readiness by working on cognitive and language skills to communicate, but also the social and emotional skills to work with others. She asks parents to inquire about “teacher training and age-appropriate teaching methods” before enrolling their child to a preschool. 

 

4. UC San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center: Foster Play-based and Inquiry-Based Learning

 

Matthew Proctor is the new director at UC San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center, which provides child care and education services to all faculty members, staff and students. He talks about how the center curriculum focuses on child discovery where young students initiate learning. The objective is to embed math, language and other subjects naturally into what the children are already interested in playing. His goal is to further expand the program to accommodate more students. 

 

5. Little Nooks Preschool: House Preschool on Main School Site

Little Nooks Preschool will open in Kalama, Washington. The program will be fully inclusive and housed inside the local elementary school so kids are used to the building when transitioning to kindergarten. Superintendent Eric Nerison states the need for “early childhood development and kindergarten readiness” in Southwest Washington.

 

6. Rainbow Dreams: Adopt A Specialized Curriculum for Early Childhood Education

Rainbow Dreams in Clark County Nevada is an early learning center that houses only Pre-K and kindergarten classes. The school follows a full day model for both grades. The curriculum is hands-on, play-based, and with a purpose. It promotes age-appropriate rigorous learning. Rainbow Dreams officials believe in a structured education for young children, choosing to specialize in early childhood education. The enrollment was higher than anticipated this year, signaling an unmet need in the market.

 

7. The DeKalb County School District: Create New Centers in Existing Schools

The DeKalb County School District in Georgia is planning to add six new early learning centers in its existing schools between 2026 and 2030. Currently there are two such centres, which are not nearly enough to cope with the demand for early childhood education in the state’s third largest school district. The project will cost $15 million in total, and it is part of the 2022-2023 tentative budget that will be finalized in June.

 

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools/School Districts/School Boards (Stories 8-46)

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools, School Districts. School Boards

 

8. Winnipeg School Division: Set up an Office Dedicated to Educational Equity

Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees has approved a motion to establish an education equity office by August 2022. It’s one among many examples of primary, secondary and postsecondary institutions taking such an initiative. Along with academic success and personalized learning, education equity also features as a prominent goal for many school districts in North America. It is a critical component of any school’s strategic vision. This is not surprising, given that Generation Z is the most diverse generation to date in North America. 

 

9. Kinoomaadziwin Education Body: Ensure Smooth Transitions Between Grade Configurations

Ontario and the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body have agreed to a three year $7.9 million agreement to support Anishinabek students in the province. The Master Education agreement includes improving access to culturally relevant resources and supports, supporting transitions between First Nation Schools and provincially funded schools (92% of Anishinabek students attend provincially funded schools), and sharing more data between the two education systems. 

 

10. Fort Worth School District: Ensure Learning Outside of the Classroom

Preschool and kindergarten students in the Fort Worth School District in Texas visit the museum every other week to learn about science and history. It is part of the Legacy Program, which brings diverse opportunities to students who need them. 

 

Implement Full-day Kindergarten

11. Boise School District

Boise School District in Idaho has approved free full-day kindergarten in all of its 32 elementary schools. Previously, full-day kindergarten was offered at 20 elementary schools. Superintendent Colby Dennis says that full-day kindergarten improves students’ literacy, math and social skills. It also makes enough time for both instruction and intervention. Governor Brad Little has proposed to devote $47 million for literacy programs in Idaho.

 

12. The Grande Prairie Public School Division (GPPSD)

The Grande Prairie Public School Division (GPPSD) in Alberta, expanded its pilot full-time kindergarten program from 6 to 13 of its 15 elementary schools in the district. Superintendent James Robinson says that the KinderPAL program has received glowing reviews. The program consists of curricular-focused lessons, but also structured playtime with early learning certified instructors.

 

13. Louis Riel School Division

Louis Riel School Division is planning to expand full-day kindergarten in south-east Winnipeg in 5 new buildings. It will also spend nearly $1 million dollars on diversity and inclusion initiatives including hiring more Indigenous educators and supporting ongoing reviews of curricula. Also included in the new proposed budget is a reduction of K-3 average class sizes. Smaller classes are a mark of high-quality education.

 

14. The Twin Falls School District

The Twin Falls School District in Idaho will offer full-day, tuition-free kindergarten at each of its nine elementary schools, beginning in the fall of 2022. Previously, five of its elementary schools had the program. Such an expansion was made possible by the increased state funding, as the state’s annual literacy budget increased from $26.1 million to $72.7 million. Director of Elementary Program, Jennine Peterson, says that less catching up is needed in Grade 1 if more time is allotted in kindergarten to build foundational skills. 

 

Use Learning Recovery Funds Appropriately

15. Pittsburgh Public Schools

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ superintendent, Wayne Walters says that “unfinished learning is multi-faceted and it’s not just instructionally-based.” Student achievement data last fall showed that Pittsburgh students in grades 2-7 had only three-quarters of the academic growth in math as they would in a typical year, and two-thirds in math.There is a focus on providing students with grade level work, but also providing remediation to those lacking skills to do this work. Certain schools in the school district had K-2 literacy specialists prior to the pandemic. Other school districts are looking to spend a portion of their ESSER money into providing K-3 literacy support.

 

16. The West Branch Local School District

The West Branch Local School District in Beloit, Ohio,  used its ESSER funds to introduce intervention initiatives for students who are not meeting grade-level standards. From kindergarten through Grade 5, the interventions use phonics programs which provide a consistent approach for building literacy skills. The small group sessions focus on comprehension, self-correction and fluency. Approximately 35% of grade 3 to grade 5 students have been moved out of this program due to demonstrated improvement.

 

17. The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB): Rely on More than One Source of Assessments to Track Progress

The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) in Guelph, ON, is requesting a deferral of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing in Grade 3 and Grade 6 by a year. Board trustee Mike Foley believes that the results would be skewed right now due to the increased anxiety and stress the students are facing. UGDSB’s Director of Education, Peter Sovran assures that besides the EQAO assessments data, the district also has report card data and teacher assessments data to understand student progress.

 

18. Somerset School District: Reconfiguring Grades to Foster a Bridge Between Pre-K and Early Elementary

The school district at Somerset, Massachusetts, is considering a reconfiguration of their early grades. Some potential options include pre-K to Grade 2, and Grade 3 to Grade 5. Neighboring school district at Westport had previously maintained a similar configuration, but recently changed again to a pre-K to kindergarten and Grade 1 to 4, configuration. Housing all grade levels in the same building helps to share knowledge and resources among teachers. Westport Superintendent, Thomas Aubin, is evaluating new configuration options again to increase literacy scores of students. 

 

Personalize Learning via One-on-one Tutoring

19. Toronto District School Board

Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) trustees discuss the need for greater personalization to better serve students. It includes figuring out who needs access to laptops, one-on-one tutoring, interviews with counselors, etc. TDSB is facing a funding shortfall of $60 million. The earlier cutbacks of reading coaches, speech pathologists, and social workers have not fared well at this time, when students need more help than ever.

 

20. Alexandria City Public Schools

April is school library month in the US, and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPCS) in Virginia, provides its first grade students with one-on-one reading support twice a week to help strengthen their literacy skills. ACPCS libraries allow students to explore different types of literature, and use technology to get access to different sources of information. Superintendent Gregory Hutchins encourages all families to help their children read at home each day or participate in a literacy program.

 

21. Springfield Public Schools: Appoint Strategic Positions for Elementary Schools

Springfield Public Schools in Missouri, have announced a slew of leadership changes for the upcoming school year. Superintendent Grenitha Lathan says that “To achieve growth, we must objectively assess our strengths and identify areas for potential improvement”. One high-priority area of focus is Springfield’s elementary schools, where oversight will be shared amongst three leaders. There are new hires in the chief strategy and innovation officer and chief academic officer positions as well.

 

22. The Foothills School Division: Hire More Personnel to Provide Consistent Interventions

The Foothills School Division in Alberta is on a hiring spree to help students in grade 2 and 3 with their learning recovery.  Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services, Caroline Roberts says that they are making use of a grant that was focused on literacy and numeracy in the early years.Teachers and educational assistants have been hired to deliver consistent intervention services. These services will soon be extended to grade 1 as well. In total $673,000 will be spent.

 

Provide Ample Professional Learning Opportunities

23. Vernon School District

Vernon School District in British Columbia is supporting schools and teachers by providing key resources and professional learning opportunities in literacy research approaches. This year has seen a particular focus placed on the primary years of learning. The district is working with early language and literacy consultant Dr. Donna Kozak, on “systemic literacy practices” and the possibility of “becoming more responsive” to young students in kindergarten and grade 1.

 

24. The Lethbridge School Division

Beginning in September 2022, Alberta students will learn a new curriculum for K-3 English Language Arts and Literature and K-3 Math. But, there is a cloud of uncertainty over its implementation as the curriculum is not available yet. In a survey, 86% of Alberta Teachers’ Association members disagreed that they had the resources or supports needed to successfully implement the draft curriculum. The Lethbridge School Division Superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Gilmore, says that necessary structures will be put in place to prepare teachers and students before fall.

 

25. Union County School District: Focus on High Dosage Tutoring

Union County School District in North Carolina had adopted intensive tutoring before it became standard practice for remediating learning for returning students. It invested in technology related professional development which focused on the personalization of instruction and increasing the student’s role in choosing class activities. Superintendent Andrew Houlihan noted that the district’s high-poverty, lowest-performing schools were struggling with math, and implemented small group instruction to remedy it. Having proof of its effectiveness, it was similarly rolled out for students in all schools who had suffered from the learning interruption. 

 

Facilitate Teacher Collaboration

26. Little Rock School District

The Little Rock School District in Arkansas will close two of its 26 elementary school campuses in the 2022-23 school year. The school board voted to do this in order to generate savings to account for salary increases. Another reason was to maximize student’s academic benefits from larger schools which have multiple teachers per grade level and who collaborate on instruction. Collaborative planning is one of the best practices of effective teaching.

 

27. Holyoke Public Schools

At least half of the students, at all grade levels, at Holyoke Public Schools in Massachusetts are struggling with reading. The gap in learning is more pronounced in the lower grades, with 60% of Grade 2 students needing urgent intervention. Valerie Annear, the district’s chief instructional officer, said that the dip in literacy in Grade 2 is a national phenomenon. Though disappointed with the data, she urged for more well-rounded educational experience and giving teacher’s more collaboration time.

 

28. Ripple Rock Elementary: Employ Literacy Intervention Specialists to Focus on Foundational Skill sets

Ripple Rock Elementary in BC is providing individualized tutoring services to kindergarten and Grade 1 students to help with literacy. The program uses literacy intervention specialists who work on phonics, sight word acquisition, fluency, and comprehension with the students in face-to-face, one-on-one tutoring. This early literacy program is part of the efforts to improve literacy, which is one of the goals of the district’s strategic plan. Students are thus far very engaged, and an increase in grade-level reading proficiency is expected.

 

Focus on Biliteracy

29. The Lower Kuskokwim School District

The Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska visited the Grand Prairie Independent School District in Texas to discuss dual language best practices in the early grades. The former is working to preserve the Indigenous language of Yup’ik. The latter’s dual-language program focuses on promoting language skills, and also biliteracy and biculturalism. The program focuses not only on language, but also on culture and identity. By accessing the right content, students are fully immersed in their Indigenous language before proceeding with English.

 

30. Appoquinimink School District

Students are faring well in the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs in Delaware, which was first introduced 10 years ago. DLI programs offering either Spanish or Mandarin are in 12 of the 15 school districts that operate elementary schools in Delaware. Students usually opt in the program in Kindergarten or Grade 1. The data shows that immersion students are doing as well or better than their counterparts in state assessments, while becoming proficient in two languages.

 

31. Graciela Garcia Elementary

Graciela Garcia Elementary, in Pharr, Texas, is a dual-language school where 77% of the students are emergent bilinguals. Maureen Ibarra, who teaches fluency and reading comprehension to students from grade 2 to grade 5 says that during the pandemic, many kids lost access to an adult who could help them with their assignments in their second language. There was a gap in learning for returning students. More holistic approaches for English learners are being considered.

 

Create New Schools and Gradually Add Grade Levels

32. The Loyola School

The Loyola School will be awarded Loyola University Maryland’s 2022 Milch Community Partnership Award for its service to families in Baltimore, Maryland. The school consists of an early learning center and a new elementary school, which plans to add a new grade level each year until 2025. The school seeks to improve socioeconomic disparities that exist in the city, through commitment to early childhood education and holistic development of children.

 

33. The Festus R-6 School District

The Festus R-6 School District in Missouri will have its own early learning program beginning in August 2023. Property has been bought for the site and the administrators have been selected who will head this project. The decision was made after seeing success in a neighboring school district’s program, the  Dunklin R-5 School District. But with its own program, more preschool-aged kids can enroll and greater academic continuity can be achieved as they transition from preschool to kindergarten.

 

34. Natomas Unified School District

In California, despite overall declining school enrollment in the state, suburban Sacramento is seeing an increase in enrollment due to more housing being built in the community. Natomas Unified School District in the city, opened a TK-8 school last year to account for the increasing student population. Elk Grove Unified School District, also in Sacramento, will open a new elementary school in the beginning of the next school year.

 

35. Change Health Charter School: Promote Learning Outside the Classroom

Change Health Charter School in Parkland County, Alberta, has a grand vision for outdoor learning. It wants to teach its kindergarten to Grade 9 students Alberta’s curriculum using the YWCA Camp Yowochas’s facilities, which is a 60 acre, year-round outdoor education centre. What is learned in the classroom in the morning can be experienced first-hand in the afternoon in a cross-curricular delivery model, says Camp Yowochas community manager Felicia Ochs. The school plans to open in September 2023.

 

36. Los Angeles Unified School District: Reduce Class Sizes

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, half of students are not meeting grade-level goals for reading and math, and the gap between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from well-to-do communities is widening. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has proposed some solutions to reverse the trends. They include expanding the school year, reducing class sizes, increasing the frequency and quality of summer schools, adding professional development systems for teachers and launching new opportunities for early learning.

 

37. Taylor School District: Focus on Hands-on Differentiated Instruction

In the Taylor School District in Wayne County, Michigan, the kindergarteners and grade 1 students play math games, which they have come to love, receiving positive encouragement as they progress. They are part of the math enrichment program, called High 5s, developed by the University of Michigan. It’s a hands-on, small-group program that has helped close the achievement gap, raising the number of students who performed at grade level by 20 percentage points. The program has also increased kindergartener’s math performance by 15%.

 

38. School District 8 (SD8): Develop a Long-Term Literacy Plan

School District 8 (SD8) in Kootenay Lake, BC, has developed a three-year district literacy plan to improve literacy proficiency, after data revealed a dip in reading and writing scores among primary learners. The Primary Literacy Coherence model looks at class profile to see what needs to be worked on for each student from kindergarten throughout their primary years. Currently, the focus is on building capacity for Grade 1 and 2 teachers.

 

39. Waterloo Region District School Board: Ensure there is Professional Development in Utilizing Technology

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is offering a variety of reading and math support in classrooms, and providing educators with additional professional learning to address any learning gaps. With increased funding from Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action plan, WRDSB has also extended its Summer Learning Program from Kindergarten to Grade 2, to Kindergarten to Grade 6. Associate Director Lila Read says that there has been unprecedented skill development in the utilization of technology.

 

40. Rhodes School District: Create More Resource Rooms

Rhodes School District in River Grove, IL, will add 8 new classrooms devoted to Kindergarten and Grade 1, as a part of its $14 million expansion. Included in the expansion is a large courtyard featuring two outdoor classroom spaces, breakout rooms for private individual or group instruction, and reading areas. To facilitate student learning, the need for more resource rooms was a common suggestion from teachers

 

41. The Oxford School District: Engage with the Community

The Oxford School District and the Lafayette County School District in Louisiana, have developed a literacy education program called Lafayette Oxford University Early Learning Collaborative (LOUELC). Last year, the program increased the reading proficiency of pre-K students from 19% to 72%. A big part of the program is a collaborative group of local organizations and community leaders, who work together to focus on targeted efforts to improve reading, both inside and outside the classroom.

 

Provide Summer Learning Opportunities

42: Greene Elementary School

The North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) recently released information showing that students (on average) fell 2 to 15 months behind their academic pace. NCDPI says that students will need intensive academic intervention to get back on track. West Greene Elementary School Principal, Phil Cook, says that professional development, guiding resources, differentiated instruction and summer learning are all being used to cover the learning gaps.

 

43. Algoma District School Board 

Algoma District School Board (ADSB) is offering the Elementary Summer Learning Program this year during the summer break. The objective of the program, which focuses on literacy skills in the primary grades, is to provide literacy intervention to those students who really need it, and to minimize the summer learning loss. ADSB has registered 101 in-person attendees and 13 virtual attendees for the program so far.

 

44. The Fulton City School District: Appoint Early Learning Specialist Positions

The Fulton City School District (FCSD) in New York has created a new Director of Early Childhood position. Kelly Gates, Instructional Coach for pre-K to Grade 2, has been appointed, based on her vast experience in providing direct coaching support to teachers, assisting with their lessons, and  providing feedback and resources. With this appointment, FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino hopes to provide educational experiences that are engaging and developmentally appropriate.

 

45. Steamboat Springs School District: Introduce New Literacy Focused Curriculums

Steamboat Springs School District received a $1.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education to hire three full-time literacy coaches, and a literacy consultant who will create measurable goals for the district. Part of this focus on early literacy also includes introducing a new literacy-focused curriculum across the district to implement a more consistent approach to reading instruction.

 

46. Shelby County Schools: Affect Evidence-based Instructional Changes

Alabama State Department of Education named Shelby County Schools and Cullman City Schools as the only two Alabama Science of Reading Spotlight school districts. This distinction is for their strong commitment to supporting the implementation of the Science of Reading (SoR) for K-3 students, sustaining evidence-based instructional changes and setting high expectations. Local reading specialists were properly backed by the leadership in these two districts to deepen teachers’ SoR knowledge.

 

Do you enjoy hearing such stories of innovation from schools working to increase literacy rates? There is more from where this came from! This article will be updated in the future. You can always visit the Sprig Blog for the latest Sprig Article, or simply subscribe to our newsletter, Root to Fruit, which provides a blog roundup twice a month. 

5 Hidden Gems for Teaching Reading in Schools

In early literacy, there is a growing body of evidence which outlines the best way to teach young children how to read. 

Sprig Learning has covered these topics previously, such as highlighting the need for focused professional development, supporting existing roles such as principals, literacy coaches, and primary teachers, taking on projects aimed at alleviating literacy inequity, and dissecting evidence-based trends that are delivering results.

Furthermore, Sprig has covered the academic return on investment angle to achieving higher literacy scores, advised on the implementation of strategic reading instruction, and discussed the ideal cost-effective early reading intervention. 

The linked articles above should provide plenty of reading material for anyone looking to understand the drivers of early literacy success and managing all aspects of policies, resources and systems that go into raising literacy scores for prekindergarten, kindergarten and elementary school children. 

However, there is more information to process when it comes to teaching reading in schools and early learning centers. 

 

More Gems for Teaching Reading and Developing Early Literacy

More Gems for Teaching Reading and Developing Early Literacy

In Sprig’s research thus far, there have been advice and case studies that fell outside the purview of previously written articles. These bits of wisdom deserve to be highlighted however, as they have shown to be just as successful in closing the early literacy gap. 

When these five gems of recommendations listed below were followed, schools and early learning centers were successfully able to surpass student language and literacy learning indicators targets.

 

1. Pinpoint Problem Areas in the Early Literacy Journey

Carmen Alvarez, Director of Early Childhood Learning in the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, vouches for the ability to see where a student needs help, rather than just understanding if they are progressing or not. 

In her words “the ability for teachers to see the exact sounds a student is struggling with, and know which concepts students have mastered” are advantageous in teaching reading. 

It’s one thing to pass students along based on if they have met certain reading qualification criteria. It’s another approach to specifically zero in on certain difficulties that could hamper reading proficiency in the future. 

 

2. Integrated Reading Instruction for Holistic Reading Development

Dr. Gina Cervetti is an associate professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Michigan’s School of Education. She says that in the early years, “reading instruction needs to be integrated”. 

Learning the code of written language is critical, which deals with phonics and phonological awareness. Enriching conversations to develop student’s oral language and vocabulary is also critical in this equation for literacy success. 

This is not to be confused with a balanced approach. According to the evidence, alphabet knowledge and phonics instruction should be direct and systematic and inclusive for the whole classroom. But alongside these practices, there should also be enough conversations and reading sessions to help practice the reading concepts that are being taught.

 

3. Specifically Devise Strategies for Those Student Groups Who Need Extra Support

Strategic reading instruction should involve regular assessments, systematic instruction, and appropriate interventions for the whole classroom, so the right support can be assigned to students who should be in a different tier of support all together. 

Taking this bottom-up approach to instructional coverage ensures that every student receives an education that is of a high caliber, before being designated to another tier. 

Being assigned to another tier without receiving an evidence-based high-quality education can sometimes be at the detriment of other students, who need those same resources more.

 Sometimes however, a certain case may warrant devising a specific strategy for dealing with a certain group of students who are disadvantaged to begin with. This could be dyslexic students, or English Learner (EL) students.

Waltham Public Schools’s EL students grew to almost one fifth of the of the student body, which was twice the state average. These students fell behind their peers on foundational literacy measures and English and language arts assessments. 

To address the issues Waltham established a new elementary school to establish a language immersion program, used funds to invest in a literacy professional development program for dual language program’s teachers, and created a  summer program for the students. 

 

4. Use a Co-Teaching Arrangement to Provide Greater Supports

Three districts in northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts, made the decision to collaborate in order to strengthen inclusive practices for kids in grades PK–2 through a special education audit and professional development. 

A co-teaching approach was put into place where an occupational therapist was pushed into preschool and kindergarten classes to assist any students who needed it. 

Push-in versus pull-out strategies for differentiated instruction have their own merits, but there is no doubt that push-in strategies are more inclusive.

Push-in strategies deem the early literacy recovery or acceleration efforts serious enough, where they want the presence of both the homeroom teacher and the other specialist professional inside the classroom. These types of strategies want every student to benefit from a situation where these professionals co-teach with homeroom teachers in the classroom.

 

5. Differentiate Instructional Strategy Based on Parent Participation

Active parental involvement is an indicator of early literacy success. Passive participation is when the school has to prompt the parent to contribute or engage in their child’s learning process. Active participation is when the parents collaborate with the teacher and the school by themselves, before being told to. 

It’s great if parents have a way to see what is being taught, or receive insights into the learning strengths and weaknesses of their child, so they can offer help at home accordingly.  But beyond active participation, what ends up happening at home is also important for teachers to know so they can take necessary measures.

For example, the Conejo Valley Neighborhood for Learning Early Childhood Program in Ventura County, California, said they would reinforce the importance of daily reading. But soon they discovered that some parents had limited access to books. 

Upon learning this information, they “developed tips on how to use the same book repeatedly”. This specialized information was provided to those parents who needed this support. 

 

The Best Way to Teach Reading in Schools

Best way to teach reading

Along with the information covered in prior articles, Sprig hopes these 5 gems help schools and early learning centers to improve early literacy skills in students. 

The best way to teach reading will ultimately depend on the situation at the said school, but seeing what has worked in other places is always good for drawing inspiration, tweaking current strategies, or implementing new ideas. 

If you want more content on early literacy, be sure to check out the Sprig blog. We write blogs every week focusing on early reading instruction for both educators and administrators. Please consider joining our newsletter where you will be updated twice a month on the latest blogs, exclusive news from early learning and company updates.

A free trial of Sprig Reading is now available to all. It was developed accounting for many of the best practices teachers were using in the classroom to achieve up to 95% literacy at each grade level. 

With Sprig Reading, instructors can quickly learn how to assess what children already know and what they still need to learn in order to help them develop into strong and independent readers.

Sprig Reading offers student-centered, classroom-tested instructional and assessment strategies to improve the reading ability of every child. 

Both trial and subscription options are on the Sprig Reading page.