Equipping Educators to Address Pandemic Recovery
Breakthrough Moments: How Effective Professional Learning Can Accelerate Literacy Success
There has been plenty of talk, and rightly so, about the need to help students achieve grade-level proficiency in literacy after a year of disrupted instruction. Perhaps not enough attention has been paid to ensuring teachers have the skills and expertise to provide that help. If we want to address the COVID slide in literacy, we need to invest in teachers.
We know teachers are essential to student success. Yet, only about half of teaching institutions effectively prepare educators how to teach students to learn to read. How literacy instruction is delivered may be at the root of this deficit.
While most teachers participate in some form of professional development every year, many find the experience unsatisfying, and research shows that less than a third of teachers found any of the activities they accessed "very useful" (Garcia & Weiss, 2019). As a result, a movement away from professional development and toward professional learning is underway.
Professional learning vs. professional development
Professional learning takes a more collaborative approach in which "teachers are recognized as learners, leaders, and knowledgeable professionals" (NCTE, 2019). Professional development happens to teachers, while professional learning is interactive, sustained, and customized to a teacher’s specific needs. It empowers teachers to take responsibility for their own learning and to practice what they are learning within their own classrooms and curricula.
There has never been more need for professional learning, especially for literacy instruction. As students return to school, teachers are faced with the urgent need to assess where readers stand in literacy proficiency and to help them reach grade level quickly. This isn't time for experimentation. Teachers need an approach that is proven to work, especially when the stakes are so high. Literacy is the foundational skill upon which all others depend.
Yet, many teacher-training programs don't focus on Structured Literacy, the instructional model that applies the decades of research underpinning the science of reading. With Structured Literacy, teachers become well versed in the five essential components of literacy instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—and how to successfully teach them.
At a time when teachers are being tasked with providing more than one year of growth within one year of instruction, they need to trust the science of reading and Structured Literacy to accelerate students' progress toward becoming proficient readers. To achieve this, they need effective professional learning in these critical areas of literacy.
Teaching reading requires a deep understanding of the science behind how we learn to read, why we spell the way we do, and how phonemic awareness and phonics lead to comprehension. LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) is a professional learning program based on the science of reading that gives teachers the skills they need to deliver effective Structured Literacy instruction that meets every student’s needs.
LETRS is an investment in teachers' literacy knowledge and professional practice. Teachers gain an overview of the structure of the English language, as well as an understanding of the breadth and depth of research that supports the science of reading. Once they understand the "why" behind comprehensive literacy instruction, LETRS provides explicit instruction about "how" to effectively teach for the best results. With a common language and understanding of evidence-based reading practices, teachers can prevent and remediate reading difficulties for all students learning to read—even those who struggle with dyslexia and other reading challenges.
In contrast to the traditional professional development model, the LETRS style of literacy professional learning has been shown to make teachers more effective and confident, and their feeling of empowerment replaces burnout and low expectations.
The LETRS suite
The LETRS suite of flexible literacy professional learning solutions supports teacher instruction training through its modern, blended approach to how students learn to read. Combining digital and print resources, face-to-face interactive sessions, and professional learning practice, LETRS is designed for pre-K–5 educators and administrators.
LETRS® for Early Childhood Educators provides deep knowledge of literacy instruction for pre-K–K learners and LETRS® for Administrators complements the LETRS course, giving district and school administrators and their leadership teams the knowledge of systems, implementation science, and sustainability that they need to implement a successful literacy initiative.
Lexia® Academy is an eLearning platform that supports educators' professional learning, while Lexia Success Partnerships pair literacy experts with a school's leadership team to set goals that align with instructional and staff needs.
Invest in edtech
The right educational technology in (and out) of the classroom is another essential tool in an instructor's toolbox. Especially when dealing with disrupted learning due to the pandemic, teachers need edtech programs they can count on to help all students.
Blended learning edtech, like Lexia® Core5® Reading, can be easily integrated into a K–5 teacher's curriculum because the programs are adaptive—not just to the environment, but to the student's progress.
A 2021 study on literacy outcomes showed that Core5 not only helped prevent learning loss, but accelerated literacy growth in remote and hybrid learning environments. Over 80% of students participating in the study maintained a stable literacy level despite the pandemic, and over 40% of the students exceeded their projected MAP Growth targets.
Core5 is able to help students across demographics make these gains because the program is based in the science of reading. Structured Literacy edtech is proven to support literacy acceleration, and teachers need an approach that works.
Invest in teachers
Research shows that 95% of students CAN learn to read. Teacher effectiveness is more significant to student achievement than any other factor. If equipped with effective literacy instruction, teachers can have the kind of breakthrough moments that reveal they are improving literacy learning outcomes for all students this year.
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