Literacy training for teachers improves results

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

School districts within Pearl River County took part in a national study, which showed that the literacy training for teachers in grades kindergarten through third.
Nicole McCardle, a Poplarville Lower Elementary 2nd grade teacher who took part in the literacy training said it improved a teacher’s capacity by “adding more tools to our tool box,”
The Language Essentials for Teaching Reading and Spelling training program was provided by the Mississippi Department of Education to the teachers to better prepare them to help students struggling with reading.
According to an MDE release, the study examined the effectiveness of the training program by measuring each participating teacher’s knowledge of early literacy skills and the quality of their instruction and engagement during early literacy skills instruction.
Overall, the study found that teachers who participated in the training expanded their knowledge, skills and tool sets more than teachers who did not participate, the MDE release states.
“For us, it was much more than just teaching kids how to read. That wasn’t the issue for most of the teachers. It was why they were struggling to keep up with their reading level and how we can help them in a fun and engaging way,” Morgan Smith, a Poplarville Lower Elementary teacher, said.
After evaluating the first year of training, the study revealed the following key findings:
• Average educator knowledge increased from the 48th percentile to the 59th percentile on the Teacher Knowledge of Early Literacy Skills survey.
• In target schools, the average rating of quality of instruction increased from the 31st percentile to the 58th. The average rating of student engagement increased from the 37th to 53rd percentile and the average rating of teaching competency increased from the 30th to 44th percentile.
“The training showed us what strategies and techniques worked best and what we could improve on. The big difference was the hands-on engagement with the kids. It really sparks their interest and you can see improvements in their reading instantly,” Poplarville Lower Elementary teacher Teresa Farmer said.
Smith, who started the literacy training when she worked for the Pearl River County School District, said that every teacher from kindergarten through third grade, and even some fourth and fifth grade teachers struggling with a high number of students with low reading proficiency, were invited to go through the training program, and most of them did. After the training, she said almost every student’s grades and scores on final assessments increased, demonstrating the impact of the literacy training within the target grades in the first year of implementing the new techniques.
“Basically, what this process showed us was how to target the certain needs of each student and how to provide the services they need to advance their reading proficiencies,” McCardle said.
The teachers were given teaching props to keep the learning process hands-on and engaging for the students, which they all agreed was the best teaching method.
While the students were on recess, the teachers use small magnetic whiteboards and magnetic syllables and consonants to assemble different words to prepare lesson plans.
“The kids have so much fun playing with these learning tools. That makes a huge difference because they are actually enjoying learning different words and also beginning to read at a higher level,” Smith said.
Pearl River County School District and Picayune School District did not respond to requests by the Item concerning their results of the training program by press time Tuesday.
“This training not only gave us more tools to use in the classroom, it gave the students more tools to use in the real world. It really is making a difference in these children’s lives,” Farmer said.

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