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Resources to improve early literacy skills


staff at The Free Library of Philadelphia 

on Feb 13, 2015 10:18 AM

A big part of dealing with the problem of early literacy is knowing where to turn for helpful information. The Free Library of Philadelphia has many user-friendly resources, programs, and trainings available to parents and teachers. They have compiled this list of some of those programs, plus other literacy resources throughout the city.

Mayoral candidates discuss READ! by 4th campaign


Camden Copeland and Shannon Nolan

on Feb 11, 2015 11:28 AM

The READ! by 4th Campaign is an ambitious attempt to help increase literacy rates among young Philadelphia students and thereby improve education in the city.

With the May 19 mayoral primary fast approaching, the Notebook asked each of the announced candidates -- Democrats Lynne Abraham, Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver, Milton Street, Anthony Hardy Williams, and Jim Kenney -- to say, in 300 words or less, how they plan to support this early literacy campaign’s efforts, and what obstacles they thought might hinder its success. 

In teaching literacy, assessments are in real time


Connie Langland

on Feb 9, 2015 11:48 AM

Mentioning the term “assessment” at this time of year conjures thoughts of the PSSA, the annual state test – controversial for the amount of time that is eaten up in preparation and the pall that poor showings can cast over a school.

But when literacy experts use the term “assessment,” they’re more likely to be referring to the real-time assessment tools that are now viewed as vital in efforts to ensure that children stay on track learning to read.

Bulking up on phonics


Connie Langland

on Feb 9, 2015 11:47 AM
At Belmont Academy Charter School, kindergartners are learning their letters and their sounds. (Photo: Connie Langland)

At Belmont Academy Charter School, the ongoing use of assessments has resulted in parents getting early warning if their child is straying off track, weeks prior to issuance of report cards.

And when review of data showed numerous 2nd- and 3rd-grade students stumbling in phonics, the solution was to bulk up programming in kindergarten and 1st-grade classrooms.

Now for about 20 minutes a day, children practice letter and word recognition and also, in unison, say aloud the discrete sounds of oral English in a program called Fundations. School leader Jennifer VanZandt described it as “scripted, repetitive, focusing on one letter at a time.”

The state of literacy in Philly schools, by the numbers

By the Notebook on Feb 3, 2015 11:26 AM

Only 40 percent of District 3rd graders score proficient or better in reading

In 2014, only two in five District 3rd graders met state standards for reading proficiency, based on the PSSA. Statewide, 70 percent of students score proficient. 

Citywide data for charter schools were not available. See here for proficiency rates for individual charter schools.

Who’s involved in the Read! by 4th campaign


Paul Jablow and Shannon Nolan

on Feb 2, 2015 02:21 PM

Memoranda of understanding have been signed by four dozen organizations, detailing what they will do to support three of the main goals of the READ! by 4th initiative – boosting school attendance, reaching out to parents, and preventing summer learning loss. Among the organizations involved are the American Reading Company, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the city’s Department of Recreation, and the Maternity Care Coalition, as well as other city departments, museums, civil rights groups, and civic and philanthropic organizations.

State of the art in literacy instruction


Dale Mezzacappa

on Feb 2, 2015 10:49 AM

On a January morning at the Ziegler Elementary School in the Lower Northeast, art teacher Regina Feighan-Drach was dressed like a Native American shaman. For an hour and a half, two classes of 30 kindergarten students were magically transported to another era and culture.

How can this be?

It has to do with teaching kids to read.

And with local restaurateur Rob Wasserman.

What’s new in professional development


Dale Mezzacappa

on Jan 30, 2015 11:34 AM

This year, as part of its commitment to early literacy, the District has retooled professional development for principals and teachers. The objective is to make sure that they know the best strategies and can use the available literacy assessment tools – the Diagnostic Reading Assessment (DRA), DIBELS, and AIMSweb. Each sheds light on different issues children may have at different stages of their development, but teachers must be trained to use them properly.

Hite, District make literacy crusade a priority


Dale Mezzacappa

on Jan 30, 2015 11:35 AM

Important changes are starting to ripple throughout the District as a result of Superintendent William Hite’s focus on making all students proficient readers by the time they are 8 years old.

The literacy crusade is one of four key “anchor goals” of Hite’s action plan to overhaul schools and improve educational outcomes.

From reading to community


Bill Hangley Jr.

on Jan 29, 2015 10:37 AM

It’s family storytime at the Lucien E. Blackwell public library on 52nd Street, and the bushy-haired toddler named Rio isn’t just here to learn to read.

He’s here to join the world.

“Look at this – red!” says Jennifer Walker, the librarian, as she holds open a picture book about colors. “Just like this scarf!”

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