MMSD Literacy Program Review; “Instruction in Phonics Evident”, “Coloring, cutting/pasting and copying of other printed work would not be considered quality independent literacy work and this was seen in many classrooms”. Remarkable. Reading is job #1.

Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment [104 Page PDF]:

Grades K-2 Literacy Walkthroughs
Background: Observations of literacy classes, or, walkthroughs, were scheduled for seventeen of MMSD’ s highest poverty elementary schools during the months of April and May. Three administrators visited each school for a half-day for a minimum of 12 hours of observation per school. All K-2 classrooms are observed for at least an hour by one of the three administrators. Second/third grade classrooms were observed in schools with multi-aged instructional designs. When substitute teachers are present, follow-up observations were attempted.
The purpose of the walk throughs was to provide schools with a baseline of literacy practices and to communicate a district snapshot of K-2 observable literacy practices when student routines and independence are well established. Although not a complete picture, the walkthroughs provided evidence of teaching emphasis, expectations, school/district implementation efforts and additional anecdotal information that might suggest potential areas for consideration.
Timeline: April16- May 25, 2012 Observations
May 30-31,2012 Meet with principals to discuss results of the observations
Observation Tool: Please see the attached document. This is an observation protocol merging documents developed by Fountas and Pinnell and Dom. This observation tool was selected because it captured the general categories of literacy instruction that would be included in a 90-120 minute literacy lesson. Observers could capture any of the elements observed during the 60 observations. An additional section, classroom environment provides a way to document materials and classroom structures.
Preliminary Findings:
1. The majority of primary literacy environments were organized around a Balanced Literacy Model. However, within that model, there was significant variation in what the model looked like. This lack of consistency was seen both within and across all 17 schools.
2. Most classrooms were organized in a planned and thoughtful manner. Attention was given to the development and use of a classroom library, individual book boxes and areas where students could work in pairs or small groups.
3. Although classrooms in most schools were thoughtfully organized, some classrooms were cluttered and there were not optimal environments for learning. It is recommended that IRTs work with teachers to create good physical environments in all classrooms.
4. Although the majority of classrooms had at least a 90 minute literacy block, some did not. Attention to direct instruction for at least 90 minutes is crucial for the success of all learners. Principals must make this a clear expectation. The literacy block must also be implemented with fidelity.
5. There was a lack of consistency both within and across grade levels based on common core standards and best teaching practices. This should be an area of emphasis for all schools. IRTs and principals will need to develop a tight structure of accountability that supports the Common Core State Standards and the Curriculum Companion tool.
6. In most cases, instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness was clearly evident. This instruction reflected the professional development both at the district and school level around phonics instruction, phonemic awareness and word work. Instruction appeared to be more systematic, targeted and focused than in previous years.
7. Guided Reading Instruction was observed in the many of the classrooms. It should be noted that in several schools guided reading did not occur five days a week. A wide range of practices were observed during guided reading. Teaching points were often unclear. Observers noted few teachers administering running records or maintaining other types of formative assessments.
8. Targeted, focused instruction around a precise teaching point is a critical component of quality literacy instruction. Focused feedback emphasizing areas of student mastery was also inconsistent. Again, consistency related to core practices as well as ongoing specific assessment practices should be apparent within and across elementary grades.
9. Professional development work should continue around the use of assessment tools. Principals must require the practice of ongoing assessment in all classrooms.
10. The development and use of anchor charts and mini lessons are critical pieces of strong core instruction. Anchor charts and mini lessons were seen in some classrooms and not in others. Professional development should address these ideas so that there is consistency across the district.
11. In many classrooms, the quality of independent student work was of concern. Teachers in all classrooms must pay careful attention to independent student work. This work must support the structure of the literacy block, be consistent with the focus of guided reading and be at each student’s independent level. Emphasis must consistently be on authentic reading and writing tasks. Work should be differentiated. Coloring, cutting/pasting and copying of other printed work would not be considered quality independent literacy work and this was seen in many classrooms (bold added).
12. Teachers were inconsistent in giving feedback to students related to specific learning. Clear, corrective feedback and/or affirmation of solid understandings will accelerate individual student learning and help learners tie the known to the new.
13. All students should also be receiving ongoing, focused feedback related to independent work and independent reading. Regular conferencing and assessment of independent reading and writing is a crucial component of a rigorous literacy curriculum.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.