Friday, August 3, 2018

Classroom instruction from a trained teacher using evidence-based effective practices helps students build their skills toward literacy proficiency. The Iowa Reading Research Center is launching a new joint effort with the Iowa Department of Education to help provide that foundation of literacy instruction.

The Early Literacy Blueprint Initiative (Blueprint) is part of the Iowa Department of Education’s larger early literacy initiative underway since 2012 that focuses on making sure all students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. The Blueprint focuses on improving the overall design and delivery of the literacy instruction that elementary students receive.

One component of the Blueprint involves professional development for teachers. The initiative contains six professional development modules (more will be developed throughout the initiative). Each module provides teachers with a review of a literacy skill or topic, shows a strategy for teaching the skill, and provides opportunities for practice. Videos showing teachers in Iowa classrooms using the teaching strategies are included throughout the modules.

“We know that improving students’ literacy proficiency starts with the instruction they receive in the classroom from their teachers,” said Iowa Reading Research Center Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed. “Blueprint will equip teachers with the knowledge, evidence-based literacy practices, and support necessary to teach their students to become better readers and writers during this crucial early period.”

The IRRC delivers Blueprint professional development through a training-of-trainers approach. Literacy leaders across the state will be trained to become Certified Blueprint Trainers so they may deliver the professional development modules to teachers in their home school districts or Area Education Agency regions.

“Through the training-of-trainers approach, we can leverage collaboration with AEA literacy consultants and instructional coaches in schools across the state to empower as many teachers and their students as possible,” Reed said.

The first Certified Blueprint Trainers are being trained by the IRRC August 6-8 in West Des Moines. They then will be available to conduct professional development sessions for teachers during the 2018-2019 school year. The IRRC will collect fidelity of implementation data during these sessions and from teachers after they start teaching students using what they have learned from certified trainers. This will be done to ensure the initiative is being implemented as intended and to further inform Blueprint development.

Another component of the Blueprint, the High-Priority Milestones for K-3 Reading Development document, provides a starting point for evaluating literacy plans to make sure students are progressing on schedule. The milestones explain which literacy skills students need to master by the end of each grade. Where applicable, the relevant Iowa Core standards associated with the high priority skills are indicated. The document also provides overall recommendations in the areas of keeping students motivated and engaged in their literacy learning, and maintaining a supportive and data-driven literacy environment. General recommendations for supporting English learners and bilingual students also are included.

“The Milestones allow an educator to look at the key areas of reading development and determine whether the curriculum and instruction being provided are sequenced properly and targeted on the skills that will help students achieve reading proficiency,” Reed said.