This year the Rio School District, more than ever perhaps, is focused on guiding every child to become an interested and excellent reader. Interested readers choose to read as a discretionary activity as well as finding the interest in the reading they are assigned at school. Excellent meaning that they read at levels of fluency and comprehension equivalent to or exceeding the very rigorous demands of state standards. As you might say, this is not necessarily your grandpas’ childhood reading expectation that used the Dick and Jane Readers and went on to more difficult and meaningful texts in later grades. 21st century schools demand very complex and analytical reading from its students especially beginning in the 3rd grade when the state begins to assess their skills on standardized tests such as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) .
Even as we enter the age of video and other more prominent multi-media, reading text on a page or screen remains the dominant gatekeeper for student success in the schools we construct. Recent CAASPP results in mathematics as compared to previous year’s CST tests are testament to the fact that now even in math, a student’s reading ability and interest plays a major role in their success in other subjects such as math. This emphasis on reading in all the new tests and our new common core curriculum reflects the society’s demand for ever more analytical readers in society and the work place. All of this being said, RSD wants to help every child get on a path to loving to read and to becoming excellent readers. If they do, test scores and other metrics such as grades will likely follow in kind. More importantly, reading is a door to information, adventure, knowledge, and a process of understanding the world while understanding the self.
Reading is also a bridge to new mindsets and connections to the vast heritage of leaning developed by mankind. Reading is an efficient means to store and recall information and develop wisdom whether it is accessed through great novels, blog posts, or technical journals and articles. Along these lines, we are working to help every Rio learner develop as decoders of the sounds and symbols of the English language while quickly learning to makde sense of and understand what they read. At our Rio Real Dual Language Immersion Academy, in all our libraries, and in our middle school second language programs we are doing the same for student learning in Spanish, Mixtec languages, and other non-English languages.
Rio S.D. is also working to help every learner read “Academic Language” and the language of school and scholarly work such as research. We endeavor to guide children to “read” their community and local and global cultures such that they can better navigate them in the present and future. Yes Reading is Fundamental, but its not the only thing, and reading that is relevant and meaningful comes in the context of reading to learn as we learn to read. In this we mean that students learn to improve as readers as they use reading to learn about their subject areas and their interests. This year we are ever more focused on creating a community of readers such that all our teachers are playing a reading role by helping to support developing readers in every class from Physical Education to Music. While these subject area teachers may not be “reading teachers” as such, we are helping them to build the capacity to support learners as readers in their classes.
Our partnership with a team from California Lutheran University (CLU) and their California Reading and Literature Project (CLRP) is helping us build a firm foundation of reading teaching skills. Together we are poised to make great improvements in our students’ reading interest and excellence. We are also employing Improvement Science utilizing a recent partnership with edleader21 and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as we create Network Improvement Communities (NICs) aimed at improving literacy skills and interest for all students with a special focus on English Language Learners. Together, we are about to roll out our most ambitious initiative to partner with parents and families to support their children’s development as readers. We have partnered with an educational software company, Learning Priority, to develop tools that connect children, families, and school in a process of mutual support for the development of interested and excellent readers.
The LP/RSD learning dashboard will soon be active in allowing student, teacher, and family to access their child’s reading assessment results in relation to their grade level expectations. In its second phase the dashboard will also allow parents and teachers to quickly dive through the digital score and directly experience hearing their child read and examining their fluency, accuracy, and comprehension by listening and viewing their child’s recorded reading and retell of a grade level passage. This simple tool is our first major digital effort to systematically connect families to their children’s reading development via a simple digital toll you can access on your cell phone.
All of these and many more efforts acknowledge that children have many things to learn in school while considering that their reading interest and ability is a critical gatekeeper to their success in school. We look forward to the dashboard rollout and to getting feedback and guidance from parents about its ongoing development as a communication tool for the 21st century.