Focus on early childhood literacy showing positive results

LANSING – The state’s focus and investment into early childhood and early literacy programming over the past several years is beginning to show positive outcomes in statewide testing results according to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

Third and fourth grade scores on the English language arts M-STEP test showed modest gains this year; this represents one of the few highlights in this year’s results. Another highlight is an increase in the 11th grade Social Studies scores – from 46 percent proficient last year to 48.5 percent on this year’s Michigan Merit Exam (MME) this past spring.

“The third and fourth-graders in school today are the kids who are benefiting from the investments in early childhood education programs over the past several years,” said Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles. “We want to thank Governor Snyder and state legislature for their persistent commitment to early childhood education that is beginning to bear fruit.

Three years ago, Michigan identified early literacy gaps as a focus area for policy and program support for learners, and established a set of initial support mechanisms to address the learning gaps. These programs have since been initiated with educators.

The programs, created and funded by the state legislature, support specific recommendations to ensure that all students have strong literacy skills to read by grade three. These include:

Added instructional time grants that support districts in providing additional targeted supports for students who struggle in reading and other literacy skills;

Literacy coaches at intermediate school districts (ISD) who provide direct assistance to school districts and public school academies to address instructional needs to help students;

Assessment reimbursement grants to support districts in the use of screening and diagnostic tools to help identify specific student needs, so they can receive targeted support; and

Professional learning funds to support the creation of a literacy coach network and resources for educators to learn and implement best practices to support all students – as well as students with specialized literacy learning needs, including English Learners, students with disabilities, and other students who may struggle to demonstrate these skills.

MDE also is in the process of distributing to school districts $20 million the state legislature appropriated for additional instructional time to pupils in grades K-3 who have been identified as needing additional supports and interventions in order to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Several organizations are partnering with MDE to provide a consistent, coherent support infrastructure, so that all early literacy efforts are focused on the same needs. MDE and Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) teamed up with several literacy experts to form a task force to develop the Essential Instructional Practices for different learners, including K-3, early learners, and now adolescent and young adult learners.

These efforts have just begun to reach Michigan educators, students in child care settings, and classrooms throughout the state. As they become more fully implemented, more of Michigan’s children will have the literacy skills they need to succeed.

A goal of Michigan’s Action Plan for Literacy Excellence is to support educators of all students, including families, in literacy. MDE has defined the principles of family engagement and will use the principles to create a family engagement framework. Part of the family engagement workgroup’s strategy is to support families in understanding the Ready by Grade Three law.

The M-STEP testing was done during a seven-week window this spring. Preliminary results were available to school districts within 24-48 hours. Ninety-nine percent of schools and students are tested online, up from 80 percent in 2015.

Local school district and building M-STEP results are available at www.mischooldata.org. Downloadable data is available at www.michigan.gov/mstep.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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