The statistics are well known: only 35 percent of students are reading proficiently by grade 4, and NAEP reading scores are the lowest in decades. Although most students can learn to read, the majority are not reaching their full potential. A significant step toward improving our nation’s literacy landscape is relying on brain-based, science of reading instruction.
As Louisa C. Moats details in Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science, many teachers—the stakeholders who have the single greatest impact on student learning—are not equipped or trained to teach reading in the way current research shows is the most effective. The good news is that professional learning can empower educators with up-to-date research, findings and best classroom practices to increase instructional capacity, drive student success and set reading scores on an upward trajectory.
Effective Professional Learning
“Professional learning should not only bring educators the most current research but also support them as they develop, implement and refine strategies that align with that research,” says Brent Hartsell, director of solutions for Professional Learning at Learning Ally, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the reading gap.
Research shows that, to be effective, professional learning must be comprehensive and ongoing. After decades of studies, professional learning researchers such as Linda Darling-Hammond, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers have identified integral elements to foster continued educator growth and lasting instructional change to improve student achievement.
Effective professional learning includes the following:
- Workshops and webinars that provide in-depth expert-led sessions with authentic follow-up.
- Professional learning communities that provide opportunities to refine practices and grow over time while focusing on student outcomes.
- Coaching that provides content-specific individual support.
“At Learning Ally, educator experience and student success are priorities as we design and deliver professional learning services,” Hartsell says. “We strive to empower and support educators so that they can improve their practice and provide effective reading instruction to their students.”
Learning Ally’s professional learning services support educators with evidence-based, sustained solutions that incorporate:
- In-depth, hands-on informational sessions, each with a clear call to action to take back to the classroom.
- Communities of practice sessions in which small groups of educators within a district collaborate with their colleagues to elevate new practices.
- Individual and small group coaching that provides tailored support to promote mastery and transform instruction.
Effective Brain-Based Literacy Instruction
Learning Ally’s newest professional learning series Effective Brain-Based Literacy Instruction gives educators certification as brain-based literacy instructors who have mastered the fundamentals of effective literacy instruction, including:
- The theoretical frameworks of the Simple View of Reading and the Reading Rope
- Phonemic awareness, phonics, word study and decoding
- Language comprehension
- Comprehension strategies, vocabulary and background knowledge
- Teaching multi-language learners
“For young students to become proficient readers, the two processes of word recognition and language comprehension need to be developed simultaneously from the start of learning to read,” says Dr. Molly Ness, reading researcher, author and Learning Ally’s vice president of academic content. “Word recognition skills, which include phonemic awareness and phonics, enable readers to decode or lift the words off the page; language comprehension skills, such as background knowledge and vocabulary, make it possible for them to understand those words and make meaning of a text.”
Built on both the science of reading and professional learning research, Effective Brain-Based Literacy Instruction expands a district’s instructional capacity by providing five two-hour, in-depth training sessions (live online or on-demand) led by passionate, expert facilitators and reinforced by five one-hour communities of practice sessions. Optional coaching sessions are recommended to fine-tune small-group and individual skill sets to meet specific needs. Participants can expect to explore answers to the following questions:
- How do we implement systematic and explicit literacy instruction?
- What are the foundational enhancements needed to deliver explicit word recognition instruction?
- How do we build strong comprehension skills in developing readers?
- What does rich vocabulary instruction entail?
- What components are in place to develop skilled reading?
The focused combination of deep learning and practical application sustained over a designated period of time effectively grows and transforms literacy instruction to close the literacy gap, helping every child become a successful reader.