In the fall of 2017, Southeast Polk adopted new language arts materials to replace what was adopted over 10 years ago. The new literacy materials (Wonders K-2) (ReadyGEN grades 3-5) align with the Iowa Core literacy standards and the new resources support our instruction aligned to those standards. Both of the new language arts resources encourage technology integration in the classroom and encourage multiple daily opportunities for students to collaborate about their learning.
Results from the state fall literacy assessments, FAST and aReading, show that all grades in our elementary buildings are exceeding the state averages by 4% to 17% and continue to show growth. Research shows reading successfully by the end of third grade is an important predictor of school success. Our third and fourth-grade classes are hitting targets above 80% proficiency.
Southeast Polk kindergarten through 5th-grade students are screened three times a year, as a part of Iowa’s Early Literacy Initiative (ELI). This comprehensive early literacy law focuses on making sure all students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade so they are prepared for academic success in fourth grade and beyond.
In our classrooms, when students do not meet the benchmark the first time, we start a literacy intervention. While the state only requires districts to start an intervention after the second assessment, we believe it is important to begin early. This intervention consists of small group instruction with a reading specialist 4-5 days per week for 15-30 minutes. There is continued progress monitoring to make sure the small group instruction is working or if changes need to be made. All literacy scores are shared with parents and, if an intervention is necessary, parents are contacted via phone or face-to-face to discuss the plan of action.
Tammy Steenhoek, Southeast Polk Language Arts Coordinator, shares, “We are proud of our Southeast Polk elementary readers’ growth in reading! Our families, students, and teachers have embraced the components of Iowa’s Early Literacy Implementation law and are working hard to help our readers develop skills and confidence.”
MTSS (Multi-Tiered Structures of Support) is an Iowa Department of Education initiative that Southeast Polk has been focusing on. During recent summer breaks, multiple Southeast Polk teachers have attended the PLC (Professional Learning Communities) conference to learn more about MTSS and other components of PLCs. Teams of teachers and leaders have brought back their learning about MTSS and have implemented it in our schools. During professional development time on Wednesday afternoons, teachers are given the opportunity to look at literacy data, small group instruction practices and work on MTSS structures.
Shannon Jones, Centennial Elementary Reading Specialist, shared, “As a teacher, I feel very fortunate that our school has set aside time to be used for examining student data, for collaborating with teachers, and for discussing effective and targeted instruction. I believe that here at Southeast Polk, we have had success because of the time invested in planning interventions for MTSS and adjusting instruction, based upon student growth.”
“All eight Southeast Polk elementary schools have focused efforts on their MTSS structures and collaboration within Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) so we can better use data to inform our instructional decisions. We are providing targeted literacy instruction to meet the needs of all students and we are prioritizing communication about literacy progress with our students’ families. While we continue to seek ways to grow, we also celebrate our movement in a positive direction! ” said Steenhoek.