Summer Newsletter: August 29, 2019

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Texas Embraces the Science of Reading

Reading and brain researchers agree on the science of teaching reading...so does the STATE of TEXAS! Recent highlights:

  • The 2019 teaching standards for Texas public schools (i.e., TEKS) require phonics instruction from kindergarten through 5 grade.
  • Texas requires teachers to know the science of teaching reading for certification. 
  • The 86th Texas Legislature passed a transformative education bill this summer: House Bill 3  (HB 3)! The Texas Education Agency will release resources that explain House Bill 3 so that the public at-large can better understand the different components of the law and what guidance they can expect from the agency over the next few weeks and months. Check out the HB 3 in 30 Video Series.

Science Matters

Modern technology shows how the human brain learns to read. Functional MRIs of the brain prove that “picking up the mechanics” of reading isn’t easy or natural. This explains why so many children do not learn to read through exposure to books and language. Humans are born with brain circuitry to pick up spoken language; but no one is born with reading circuity. Reading has to be taught (Psychology Today, May 2018).

When children begin school, we cannot predict with sufficient accuracy which children will struggle to learn to read without explicit, systematic reading instruction and which children will not. The most ethical and prudent action is to provide all children with the most effective teaching methods, based on the best available evidence, thereby accelerating the progress of all children (Buckingham & Castles, 2019). 

Listen to this podcast by Emily Hanford of APM Reports to learn why millions of American children aren't learning to read: At a Loss for Words.  How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers.
Science of Reading in Bexar County

Southwest ISD and SAReads® bring the science of reading into elementary classrooms in Bexar County. 240 Southwest ISD teachers participated in the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS®) professional development provided in partnership with SAReads®. We are grateful to the exceptional leaders at Southwest ISD for making this project possible.

Congratulations to Dr. Lloyd Verstuyft for being the ESC Region 20 Superintendent of the Year.  Special thanks to Dalila Garcia, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction, and Velia Terrazas, Executive Director of Elementary Education, for their vision, leadership and collaboration.

Southwest ISD and SAReads® are empowering teachers with the latest knowledge and support to implement the science of reading in their classrooms. SAReads® literacy facilitators work with Southwest ISD literacy teams to sustain professional development and instructional coaching for teachers.

Teachers Are Talking

Of teachers trained in Southwest ISD, 98% agreed that information learned has or will help them implement new strategies to improve student performance in reading, and 98% want to keep learning and receiving support for classroom implementation. “I have seen tremendous gains in my classroom since implementing science-based reading instruction, and I truly believe the impact it can have for all of our students and their reading success,” said one teacher.

Another teacher explained, “Science-based reading instruction has improved not only my students’ reading ability but the way they spell, and most importantly their confidence level.  They are no longer afraid to read big words and they love to write because now they know how to spell.”

View her letter here.

SAReads® created a Facebook group to raise awareness and facilitate discussion around the science of reading. Join the conversation:
Science of Reading by SAReads®.

Reading Outcomes 

SAReads® monitors and measures our efforts in order to systematically change children’s reading outcomes. This is a multiyear project, and we achieved the following objectives in the 2018-19 school year:

  • Trained 240 elementary teachers and 453 tutors (preservice teachers) to practice science-based reading instruction.

  • Provided 54,000 books to Bexar County children, schools and nonprofits.

  • Tutored 487 K-4 grade children in reading;

  • Supported the shift in how reading is taught to 2,500 K-2 grade children.

Hundreds of teachers know the science of reading as school begins this week. The number of children reading on grade level will climb as students receive explicit, systematic reading instruction over enough time. 

Student benchmarks for a sample first grade teacher improved and became more consistent after training in comparison to the year before training (see attachment):

  • On average, 67% of students were considered on grade level throughout academic year 2019 in comparison to an average of 40% in 2018.

  • By May 2019, 5% of students did not meet the grade level reading benchmark in comparison to 16% in 2018.

It is our objective that these patterns will become more common.

San Antonio Book Festival

SAReads® never forgets the importance of the experiences and books that help children develop a love of reading. Our annual trip to the San Antonio Book Festival is one of our favorite literary experiences, and we are grateful to the SA Book Festival team for the VIP welcome SAReads® kids receive every year.

Empowering Minds

THANK YOU Louis Cardenas and the Blonde Creative team! Louis created the first SAReads® logo in 2010, and he is giving SAReads® a new look to represent our focus on the science of reading and our commitment to EMPOWERING MINDS through reading and education. Check out our new website!

There are hundreds of articles and books about the science of teaching reading. If you want to learn more, a good place to start is:

Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, And What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg

Major Investors in SAReads®
SAReads® thanks all current and past investors whose donations help us design programs that meet the literacy and language needs of public school children.
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