Gwinnett County schools take new approach to literacy
In addition to these learning gaps, “we know that 100% of our students have been impacted by the pandemic,” said Chris Brown, principal of Grayson Elementary. “We need to make some changes. What we were doing before — balanced literacy — worked for the majority, but not for all students. And every student needs support.
Gwinnett’s new curriculum emphasizes the science of reading, which focuses on technical aspects, such as language structure and phonetics. Proponents often liken it to balanced literacy, which they say minimizes phonics and word recognition. A technique often criticized is cueing, which allows the reader to use contextual clues such as images on the page to help identify the word.
The debate over how to teach students to read is a decades-old question. Last year, Fulton County adopted a step change in a literacy program based on this approach – and invested $90 million in it.
More than half of the elementary school principals in Gwinnett have offered their school to participate in the first-grade literacy program pilot. Additionally, every certified teacher in the district is required to complete a 10-hour course that introduces the science of reading and delves into dyslexia and how to teach students with dyslexia.
Anna Mary Smith, director of language arts and literacy for elementary schools, said the revamped curriculum is the first complete overhaul of Gwinnett’s literacy program in more than 20 years and comes with an investment $29 million in federal pandemic funding.
“Looking at the historical performance of our students and considering our vision for their future success, we see a huge gap,” Smith said at a school board meeting.
A group of parents of dyslexic students has been pushing the science of reading for months. They said the old curriculum was failing students, leaving them unable to read until they found tutors or schools that used science-based techniques.
Studies have shown that up to 20% of people have some level of dyslexia. Often a student who is struggling to read gets pulled out of class for extra help or is placed in a special education program. Schoen believes these students will be able to learn in their regular classroom and stay there with their peers without falling behind.
“We’re going to catch a lot of these kids who were struggling, but if we were just doing a few of these different techniques and strategies, we wouldn’t have struggled and ended up in special education,” he said. Schoen.
The deployment began with training over the summer, and additional training is planned for the school year. The plan includes universal screening for dyslexia. The state requires all districts to screen all new kindergarten children for dyslexia by 2024.
The literacy plan received a favorable reception when it was set up.
“These initiatives will change the trajectory of the lives of thousands of students and enable this county to ensure that every child learns to read,” said Missy Purcell, reading science advocate and parent of a student. dyslexic.
The district will continue to develop the literacy plan and assess student progress throughout the school year.
These assessments will inform lessons and materials that will be used in the future, Assistant Superintendent Nakia Towns said. The district will also decide in 2023 whether or not to expand the program to the entire district.
What is the science of reading?
The science of reading is a body of research that examines how children learn to read and write. It supports an approach to teaching that emphasizes decoding skills and word identification. Key elements include an understanding of phonetics, syllables and syntax.