Fort Bend ISD plans to implement a new program to raise student literacy rates

During Monday’s board of trustees meeting, Fort Bend ISD staff discussed establishing an early literacy center—with a subprogram for special education students—for the 2018-19 school year to address low literacy rates, particularly for students within the Willowridge High School feeder pattern.

The early literacy center would be based at Ridgemont Elementary School, sharing the site with the school’s existing early childhood center, and will have the potential to expand to other schools in the future, said Diana Sayavedra, FBISD chief academic officer.

“Reading at first grade and exiting first grade at high proficiency levels is critical,” Sayavedra said.

FBISD’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness 2014-17 data indicates less than 60 percent of students within the Willowridge High School feeder pattern demonstrate a mastery of reading, said Stephanie Williams, FBISD’s executive director of Teaching and Learning.

Using the elementary universal screener, a diagnostic assessment tool to evaluate skill level, staff identified zero percent of kindergarteners in the Willowridge feeder pattern are probable readers, according to staff reports. In comparison, 16 percent of kindergarteners district-wide are probable readers.

“The universal screener defines a probable reader as one that is able to access and read grade-level text,” Williams said.

Data also indicates rate of probable readers in first grade and second grade within the Willowridge feeder pattern are 14 percent and 22 percent, respectively—significantly less than the district-wide 65 percent and 77 percent.

“What this data did is it reinforced our inference that the root cause of our issues is related to literacy, particularly the development of early literacy skills in our students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade as they first learn how to read and then transition in grade two to reading to learn,” Williams said.

It will be a full day program for prekindergarten students from elementary schools within the Willowridge feeder pattern, Williams said. The first year of implementation will also include kindergarten students from Ridgemont Elementary School, allowing students from other schools in the feeder pattern the choice to opt in.

Williams said an instructional leader would be charged with the task of teaching based upon a balanced literacy instructional model, which incorporates reading and writing workshops, word study and speaking and listening skills.

“That new leader would also oversee the implementation of an early intervention special education academy at the same site as the early literacy center,” she said.

The early intervention special education academy would be an application-based program, said Deena Hill, executive director of special education for FBISD. The academy will start with three-year-old prekindergarten students in its pilot year of implementation, operating during the summer and following the traditional school calendar.

“It’s going to be offered for every student in the district, however, there’ll be heavier weights for students from the Willowridge feeder pattern,” Hill said. “It will be designed to be a three-year program, so students will come in, hopefully they’ll stay for three years and once they complete that three-year program and they leave, they will have the skills to successfully transition back to their home school.”

Sayavedra said staff is working on programming details at this time and will present additional information to board trustees in April.
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