Literacy Progress

Michigan Partners Celebrate Literacy Gains

Schools see success in statewide push for phonics-based approach to reading

New grant program helps districts train teachers, overhaul instructional practices

October 27, 2023 | School News Network

A recent story profiles how second-grade teacher Bernice Wisnieski and fellow teachers at Grand Rapids’ Sibley Elementary School are using the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling approach, more commonly known as LETRS as their cornerstone in overhauling how schools teach reading.

“I never understood how to teach reading until I learned LETRS,” Wisnieski said, summing up what many educators who have gone through the LETRS training have said.

Journalist Joanne Bailey-Boorsma notes, “LETRS is a professional learning course teachers across the country are being trained in that incorporates the science of reading philosophy. Based on scientific research in early literacy instruction, it focuses on awareness of sounds in spoken language, phonics and word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension of both oral language and text.”

In 2021, Sibley Prinicipal Rose Maher enrolled in LETRS training through a state grant program, and all of her teachers soon followed. The results are promising.

Bailey-Boorsma states,

“Within a year of implementing LETRS schoolwide, Sibley went from the middle of the pack to the top elementary school in reading performance for Grand Rapids Public Schools on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests.”

Sibley kindergarten teacher Ruth Wezeman said she believes the success is because LETRS explicitly teaches children how sounds represent letters. She has been teaching for 46 years, 34 in Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Wezeman said she learned about the science of reading six years ago through training with Leading Educators. She was so intrigued that she began to read everything she could find about teaching reading. Read more and watch classroom videos in the article.

Bernice and students
Sibley second-grade teacher Bernice Wisnieski uses phonics to help students sound out words. Photo courtesy of School News Network.
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