Daily file illustration by Carly Schulman
Summer programs and cross-district collaboration between educators could help further Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202’s literacy goals, board members said during a Monday joint meeting.
District 65 and District 202 established a joint literacy program in 2014 to help students become proficient readers prepared for college and careers by 12th grade. According to Stacy Beardsley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, District 65 is taking a three-tiered approach to achieving these goals.
The first tier is curriculum-based and available to all students. The second tier consists of a small group learning approach for students who are not up to their grade level in literacy. If small group instruction is not sufficient and students need more support, they move to the third tier, which is dedicated to one-on-one instruction.
ETHS measures literacy proficiency for incoming freshmen by STAR testing, while District 65 uses MAP assessment data. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, neither MAP nor STAR tests were administered in 2020.
Black and Latinx ETHS students still display lower percentages of college readiness, which is partially measured by proficiency in English and language arts, in comparison with their White peers. In November 2020, 32 percent of Black male students and 26 percent of Latinx male students did not meet any of the benchmarks qualifying them for college readiness, while only four percent of White male students failed to meet relevant benchmarks.
Beardsley said the district is examining its curricular materials pertaining to literacy. She also said the district pays attention to unit and formative assessments to design instruction that best accommodates students’ needs.
Additionally, Beardsley said District 65 leaders have been providing feedback and professional support to educators, which she called “spotlight systems.”
“We know we need to accelerate learning outcomes,” Beardsley said. “And it’s through these spotlight systems in the approach, and the three tiers, that we really see the opportunity to be successful in accelerated learning.”
Board member Sergio Hernandez said dialogue between 8th and 9th grade educators can help support students through transitions from 8th grade to high school and improve literacy outcomes.
“Where we lose our kids is in those transitions,” Hernandez said. “It’s particularly those kids who have families who aren’t really sure how to navigate the system as effectively. ”
Scott Bramley, associate principal for instruction and literacy at ETHS, highlighted collaborative literacy programs between the school districts, notably the Summer Lift Program
The program, which which began in 2019, allows second through 12th grade students the chance to sharpen literacy skills over the summer through their preferred learning styles, including instruction from licensed reading specialists.
Bramley also said data from the program indicates students were successful last summer despite the stressors of COVID-19.
Ninety-two percent of the students who participated in the program in 2020 achieved literacy growth of at least one grade level, with a few students improving by three grade levels. A majority of students also reported an increase in reading stamina.
“When you consider everything…being in the summer, being during the global pandemic, being remote…I think this really speaks to the strength of the program and the design of the intervention being so individualized,” Bramley said.
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