top of page

Interview with former educator about MPS ELA curriculum

Here is a computer generated and lightly edited transcript of a previous call we had with Wendy Lundsgaard about the ELA curriculum MPS uses for grades K-5, Benchmark Advance 2018. You can watch the interview here.

DW: All right. Good evening. This is David Weingartner, Khulia Pringle and Wendy Lundsgaard. Tonight, we're going to talk about Benchmark curriculum. This is the curriculum that MPS introduced to the district back in about 2018. So this is something we've had for about four years. Wendy comes to us from Decoding Dyslexia, Minnesota. And she has reviewed the curriculum for another district and has helped the teachers in that district implement the curriculum. So we're just going to have a little conversation about Benchmark the curriculum in our district. I'm going to just show a couple slides, some of the conversations we've had with parents, teachers and community members. Looked at Benchmark and some of the concerns that were shared with us. Are that the current literacy curriculum and the interventions we provide teachers are lacking structured literacy, core instruction and interventions. Here's an abundance of teacher and student materials were hard to manage and the foundational skills were somewhat incidental in manner. This is a common themes of engagement, and this is something that we've shared on these different calls. So I'm not going to go through this in detail today. But what we've seen from and I think people that have visited our website and our Facebook group, we've been mentioning some of the work in Colorado, and this is the second slide they call. All of these states are implementing new laws to try and get districts to focus more on the science of reading. And oftentimes what they've seen is they'll create a law and then the districts will kind of maybe do parts of it and maybe not other parts. And what Colorado did is they have a list of items, but one of the items they said is we're going to review these curriculums and we're going to come out with a list of approved curriculums.

DW: So one thing they did is when they reviewed, Benchmark is on the next slide. They kind of said made the same comments that that we that we identified here there's abundance of teacher and student materials were hard to manage. The foundational skills are introduced in an incidental manner rather than explicitly so. The sequence of skills instruction is not linguistically aligned and lacks the systematic sequential structure necessary for optimal foundational skill acquisition. So they gave it a not recommended. And I think one thing too is this is the 2018 version and that's the version we have. So what is what Benchmark has done is they've made some changes and they're going to continue to make changes. And the state of Colorado has approved for grades three five, the 2021 version. Just recently Montgomery County has the same curriculum that we have and they identify basically kind of the exact same things. This was something that. 154,000 student District they purchased Benchmark in 2018 or 2019. They're using the 2018 version. And they've already decided that they're going to accelerate their replacement of Benchmark 2018 with a pilot this fall. Their comments were very similar. They said Benchmark Advance is lacking in Cultural diversity and other challenges are a lack of sufficient development of foundational reading skills and technology support and integration. So not to bore you guys all with a bunch of slides today. But I just wanted to kind of share some thoughts that. Just bring in some third party comments. To say we're not just kind of making this stuff up, so to speak. So Wendy, do you want to just discuss a little bit of your experience in looking at the curriculum as part of your due diligence and how you helped this other school district.

Wendy: Great. Thank you, David. Thanks for having me.

DW: Just introduce yourself, too. Sorry.

Wendy: Oh, yeah. Thank you. Wendy Lundsgaard. My background is in teaching. I was a teacher in elementary school. I taught for several years, and then I became a curriculum specialist. And I traveled the country working with teachers, implementing how to teach reading. I studied what we now call the science of reading. I have been studying for over 25 years. It just wasn't called the science of reading then, and I have learned a lot along the way. About three years ago, four years ago now, I got my reading license from Hamline so that I could have some more idea of what teachers were learning about reading in higher ed. And I was the black sheep in the class because I was being taught disproven theories and just not the science of reading. So I have I joined Decoding Dyslexia, Minnesota, and I am out there along with all of my board members advocating for students and teachers and trying to get everybody. To teach them how to educate our students to the best of their abilities. So my review of Benchmark was not a super deep dive. I've been working with a district to look at what they have and make the best of it. So how can they take what they have and make it better without having to revamp the entire curriculum? Because that's not an option for them right now.

Wendy: So in working with them, I have completed one presentation where we just went through the word study. Part of Benchmark and my overall. The idea of it is not that it's terrible. I think it's better than nothing. I've seen a lot of curriculum out there. However, there are some tweaks that need to be made in order to make it explicit and systematic. So, for example, all of the I would say none of it is really explicit. Any introductions of sound spellings, any introductions of teaching the kids how to blend words, how to spell words? None of that in terms of the sound spelling connection is explicit in terms of. So, for example, if I'm having kids spell a word. I want to teach them how to listen for a sound and connect a spelling with it. So it's not just spell these words and none of that routine is in there. Same with blending. There isn't. Take a look at this spelling. Make the connection of the sound, say the sound. And then once we get through the sounds, blend those sounds together to make the word. They are missing that explicitness. So I felt like that little tweak would help.

Wendy: I did not do a deep dive into the scope and sequence. I didn't do a deep dive into the words that were used. The reason being is I didn't want the teachers to have to come up with their whole a whole new scope and sequence and change the order of the lessons and come up with their own words. I wanted to show them how to use the sound spelling cards on the wall. In their instruction to make it explicit how to teach blending in an explicit way. So you're given these words and your teacher's guide, but what am I supposed to do with those? And how to make dictation or spelling explicit to those kids. And I talk to them about the goal of that is that not every child in the classroom needs that explicitness, but it shouldn't just be an intervention, because the goal is, if we can add that just a little tweak, we can add that the number of kids who we will be able to keep out of intervention possibly is dramatic. And so it's really important that we are being as explicit as possible. We talked about those sound spelling cards on the wall. There are so many. It's ridiculous. We don't need blend sound spelling cards. We don't need inflection.

Wendy: Ending sounds, spelling cards. We don't need signal cards. We need the sounds 44 sounds in our language. We need those up there and that's it. A blend is taught with the two sounds, so we don't need a list of multiple blends. And so we just talked about how to tweak the program in that way. There were some components of the program, like high frequency words I shared with them how to teach high frequency words by looking at sounds that would and spellings that would be predictable and really focusing on the parts of the word that aren't that don't follow the patterns that we would expect to see. So like the word said, for example, this is predictable. That is predictable. It's the eye in the middle. And that's the part that we need to focus on with the kids. So it's not just flashcards and a list of words, but really dissecting the words as much as possible to map those spellings onto their brain so that they can automatically recognize that, not because they've done a flashcard of it over and over and over. So those are some areas with the foundational skills that we worked on to just beef it up and make it more explicit for the kids.

DW: So, so one of the things that. It is a lot of the teachers this district has said about half the teachers were not using the curriculum four years into the implementation. And I think kind of getting to your point, if there's too much information and they don't know how to use it, maybe teachers are too kind of sticking with what they have or they're downloading stuff off the Internet or we don't know what they're using. I mean, is that a valid concern that there's just too much and it's too hard for these teachers to manage this?

Wendy: I think the biggest issue is the... My thought would be the lack of understanding on educator's side in this because I this for me was not overwhelming to look at and implement because I know what needs to be done. I could look and say, okay, well, I think this is why they put that in there. But this is how I would tweak it. But for someone who doesn't understand phonics, who doesn't understand morphology, words, study meaningful parts of words, who doesn't understand orthographic mapping, it would be overwhelming because there is a lot of information. I mean, the teacher's guide does set them up for it's it's one of those curriculum where people say it's. It could be a scripted program because it offers models. And here's what the teacher should say. So it does offer that, which I think for me, when I first started teaching, I had a I used a curriculum that was like that. And I was so thankful because I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. So I was thankful for that. It shouldn't be read as a script. That's not the point of that. But it is so that you don't as a teacher, you don't have to come up with an example on your own if you want to. Great. But here's an example for you. So it also depends on the training that the teachers had in using the program. So do they understand that you don't just read that you make it your own? Here's an example for you so you don't have to find one for yourself.

Wendy: The the other thing that I think is lacking in in the program and this I noted more so in the reading the reader's workshop portion is they there are good guides for the teacher, so here is a model for you to use, but then it immediately goes to now do it with your partner. But there isn't guided where we do it together. So I can give you corrective feedback. So if a student, you know, if I model and then I ask a student to now you share your thinking. So that allowed so we can all talk about it. There isn't a guide on. Well, what if a child says something that isn't appropriate. How do we offer some corrective feedback? Because there's no "we do". It's "I do" now you do it with your partner. So I'm going to model asking questions. Now you go to your text and you ask a you and your partner ask a question. And then we share out. But it should be with our shared reading. When I'm modeling, asking questions or making a prediction or whatever, clarifying a word. Then I say, "Can somebody else share?" "How would you approach this?" So there isn't that for teachers. So then if kids aren't getting it. How do we fix that? And that is something that I felt was lacking in the Reader's Workshop portion. How do we offer that corrective feedback for them?

DW: So when we spoke a month or so ago, we talked about kind of like the vocab and knowledge building and you mentioned like a transportation unit. Do you want to discuss a little bit about that?

Wendy: Great. So I looked through the vocabulary at the various grade levels, and I would say that there is in the in the literacy world, there is basically a common agreement in maybe three tiers of words, three levels of words, I think they call them tiers of words. The first tier would be words that kids know without even coming to school, bed or bedroom house, street, car, those kinds of words that don't need to be explicitly taught because they're kind of everyday words. Then there's tier three words which are going to be unique to disciplines that aren't very common. We may need to teach them if we're talking in a specific science unit, for example, that they need to be able to understand. But then there are those tier two words that are more complex. We're not necessarily going to see them all the time, but they're words that will come up and are really good words to know for our not just reading vocabulary, but our speaking vocabulary and our writing vocabulary. I felt like the words that were selected were good words. You have words like scorched and caused, and I'm not even going to be able to think of any off the cuff. It's been a while, but I felt like the words that were chosen are those tier two words. I just didn't feel like there was enough done with them. So they looked at them in the context of the text, which is great. They did teach context clues, which is fine, but they use context clues a lot. And often context clues aren't the best way to figure out the meaning of a word, because the author doesn't necessarily write in order to teach what this word is, what every word on the page that they're using is.

Wendy: So context clues could be the sentence could be very misguided. So giving you a whole definition that it's not. And so they spend more time on that than the actual definition of the word. And they use that they might choose like two words. For example, one day that they're going to talk about and they look at the context, they might use a dictionary, they may talk about synonyms of those words or multiple meaning words. That's fine. But then now we're done with those words than tomorrow we have another two words. There's no connection between the words. There's no connection between those words and maybe the theme we're working on. There's no connection. And we don't use those words repeatedly. We use them for that lesson. We talk about them and then we move on. So we need there needs to be a lot more beefed up with vocabulary because. I believe and I'm saying this here, but don't quote me on this, that it is generally understood that. People need between 12 to 14 exposures of a word just implicit when they just come across it and try to figure it out. They need to see that 12 to 14 times and figure out that word in order for them to know that word. And so we need to be explicitly teaching these words to kids, working with these words so that they remember them and they can use them. And I did not, again, look at the writing component. And so maybe they come up. In the writing. I'm not sure of that. It would be great if they did, but I can't say.

Wendy: And then with the there are unit themes which are great and the themes are good. They've got some narrative themes, some expository or informational themes. Those are great. And it looks like the reader loads and the shared reading text goes along with that theme. But very little is talked about the knowledge gained from that theme versus the amount of time discussing the strategies and skills. So we spend more time talking about the idea of asking questions than we do about what did we learn? And we spent a lot of time modeling and there are good models. I really think the models that they have in there are good, but. Not enough time spent on the knowledge gained. And how does that connect back to the theme? You start the beginning of the theme with an essential question, but within each lesson I never see anything returned back to that essential question. Every time we read a new selection, we should be returning back to that essential question, because that's why we're reading this. We're not reading this to teach predicting. We're reading this to learn about what animals can do. While we're teaching what animals can do. Yeah, we can make some predictions or we clarify some words for sure, but that can be done in the context. The, the, it really should be about the theme and the knowledge built. And again, that goes back to the vocabulary versus context clues or asking questions or text features or genre. Yes, we talk about those. It's important, but not in place of or not secondary or not not making knowledge. Secondary knowledge should be first.

DW: Do you think that it sounds almost more like it's a line to getting kids to pass a test as opposed to. Kind of preparing them for the world. Is that. Good way to look at that.

Wendy: Or it is. I think the whole testing and the standardized testing, that's a whole nother conversation because if. Because the reality is, by doing what they're doing, the kids aren't going to be able to pass the test. You have to be able to have knowledge in order to comprehend. That's really, really important. Is that because there there's so much with there's so much inference. That if we're not able to fill in that missing information, we're not going to be able to understand what message the author is conveying or what we're supposed to learn from the text. So. Get going so heavy into strategies and skills. I mean. Isn't isn't going to help them pass the test. Because they need this knowledge, this vocabulary. The other thing that I feel like is really lacking is in the reader's workshop is the discussion of sentence structure and just sentence level understanding, looking at simple sentences, complex sentences, looking at phrases and clauses. And we talk about a word. A sentence can have a bunch of pronouns. Well, what to what is that pronoun referring or taking the place of? Is it is is it replacing the teacher or the students if we say she or they or what? And just that sentence level understanding is I didn't see any evidence of that when I was looking.

Wendy: And so and then also looking at text cohesion, how do these sentences work together to help us understand, you know, in a paragraph, I didn't see any of that. And all of that is really important because I may. If I don't understand how these sentences work together or if I don't even understand if it's if it's a sentence that says the boy rode the bike to the store, I might be able to understand that. But if I change the order of that sentence to the store, the boy rode the bike. That changes it up. I may not understand it as quickly and fluently and easily as if it came. The subject, the noun, I mean, the noun, the verb, you know. So I think that is a big missing piece. And if we are if we think about it in that way versus just teaching strategies and skills, then. We can that will give the kids more of a chance to pass the test or do well. On the test.

DW: Because I just read Dr. Albert Tatum's most recent book Teaching Black Boys in the Elementary Grades Advanced Disciplinary Reading and Writing to Secure their Futures. So his focus is on advanced reading and writing. So he talks about scientific justice, and there's social justice, which I think kind of presents the problems. And in scientific justice, I'm kind of paraphrasing, paraphrasing here solves the problems. So his whole argument is we need to present students with a multidisciplinary knowledge curriculum intensely, have them read selected books and then write upon it. Our goal every year is like we're going to get 3% of the kids from the red to the yellow. That's and then we fail. And we know five years later we reset that. His goal is to get the kids out of the red and into the green, get them into the the highest level of proficiency. And in Minneapolis, it's like 4% of our Black students are at that highest level. And his proposal is not kind of this whole strategies and skills thing, but to provide students with a much, much higher level of reading, more advanced reading and multidisciplinary approach. Do you want to follow up with that, Wendy?

Wendy: Well, that just piggybacks on the work of Daniel Willingham. He's out of University of Vermont, I believe, and he talks about how that knowledge base is so important. And there's a lot out there not by Daniel Willingham, but by several others about content writing and really. And when you said about the reading and writing, linking those is really important as well for comprehension.

DW: And the last American Federation of Teachers had a really good article by Hugh Katz. I think about that was very well written. Coolio. You tour restored a couple of schools that are using Benchmark. Do you have any kind of comments or questions that you want to? Ask Wendy or share.

Khulia: Yeah. So as you were talking, you talked about the pairing and the need to do correction. I was just thinking of two things real quick. One, I did see that with what they're teaching teachers now is pressed, which is the reading intervention that they're using. And I don't think that they're because like they said, they have. Nobody was everybody was using their own when it came to Benchmark. And so this year, half the district got trained and pressed and next year the other half will get trained and press and then they'll collect the data to see if price works with Benchmark. That's one of my questions about the reading interventions and what do you think about. Like does that help or hinder a teacher from furthering having extra stuff as opposed to the curriculum itself working but now have to know reading interventions in order to correct what the curriculum is. But like I did notice that when. Four. Pressed when she would ask the question, you might ask one student if to pronounce the word after she or the letter after she pronounced the letter, and if the student gets it wrong, she'll model the correct word again. And then she'll ask another student the same question. But there was no back and forth for y or correction. And then she would tell them to pair and then some kids would speak, some kids wouldn't. And then she might call back on some kid again that didn't speak. And now he's embarrassed because he didn't doesn't do it right. So yeah, I was just noticing that.

Wendy: So yeah, it's interesting and I don't know, press, to be honest. I mean, I've heard of it know, but I've never reviewed it I think. With interventions, it can be tricky because if they are getting something totally different, it can be really hard for the kids. So if the scope and sequence of instruction isn't matching, for example, that can be really tricky for kids. So they're in their classroom and they're working on. Certain consonants and vowels, but in press they're working on totally different consonants and vowels that can be very overwhelming for kids who aren't even getting. Know so now you're adding on. So I think that's tricky. I think for a teacher it can be overwhelming because now you're balancing if you're if as a teacher, you're expected to do one program for one group and one program for a different group. When I taught, we had an intervention that went with our program and we would use. So it followed the same scope and sequence it would have. Let's say, for example, if I'm teaching second grade and we're working on certain spelling patterns and with the whole class, I'm using multi syllabic words for my intervention. It may have that focus of that certain spelling pattern, but with single syllable words possibly instead.

Wendy: And we would use that as a pre teach for kids. So I would pre teach whatever sound spelling we're working on or if we're working on inflection endings or certain base words or word endings. I would teach that in a small group for those who need the additional support. So it's the same that they're getting in the class, but with easier words or in a slower setting. And now they're getting it twice. So they're getting it with me, small group and then whole group where now they're able to participate because they just had, for example, in a smaller setting, slower setting, and then whole group, they're able to participate. So I think what happens in schools a lot is we just keep piling on all these interventions, all these programs. It's overwhelming for the teacher who has to learn all of these different programs, but it's also overwhelming for the students. Unless it aligns, it's not necessarily the best for them. I think it's also really important for interventions for teachers to be targeting students most pressing needs. So if a student isn't comprehending. Working on. We need to find out why. Is it because there's a phoneme? You know, they're not. They lack phonemic awareness. Is it because it's a phonics issue? Is it because it's decoding? Is it because it is fluency? Where is that whole? And in my intervention, I need to be filling in that hole at their most basic level.

Wendy: Just putting them in an easier book isn't going to fill the lack of phonemic awareness. So it's really important that we are aligning our intervention with the student's most pressing needs and fill in those gaps on the way. I'm not going to I don't know if I have a boat that's sinking. I start with the holes on the bottom and work its way up. I don't fill those holes at the top first because you're going to keep sinking down from those holes at the bottom. So that's really important when thinking about interventions for these for these teachers. And the corrective feedback is really important. So that it's immediate. And not for us. Not for embarrassment. But my turn. Your turn. You know, if a child isn't getting it right. Not no wrong. No, no. You know, just watch me again. Now you do. So I can see before sending them off with their partners. Are they getting it? I want to make sure that they're able to do it successfully. So that's really important.

DW: What do you think? So we I think we mentioned you said there is limited decodables available to the classroom. Can you. What is a decodable and do you want to share what that means?

Wendy: Yeah. Thank you for that question, because I also wanted to bring up the level of readers that was in the Reader's Workshop, and that'll be a good segue. So there are decodables that go with the lessons. And I don't know what Minneapolis Public Schools has purchased for decodables. Those should be all students needed to code. All in a district where I was working, they have their read alouds and then there are lap books of those read alouds and the students. So it's smaller copies of a big book essentially. And students are engaging with this text that they can't even read. It's text for the teacher to be reading to them and they're expected to follow along and read with the teacher after she's read it multiple times. And then in this district they then just have one copy of the decodable and that's backwards. The big book should be for all students to be able to see. They can see it. I can model whatever I'm working on left, right, top to bottom, print awareness. And the students can come up and they can interact with it as well. But the decodable walls are for the kids to read. That's actually text that they are applying their phonics skills, their phonics skills to. So they need to be able to have a copy to read on their own. And it's not a text where I read it to the kids and they repeat after me. And decodable is for the students to decode the words. And if they have difficulty, I don't just tell them the word. I help them to sound out those words on the page.

Wendy: It's a high frequency word. We can attack it a little bit differently because they're not able to sound it out. Complete or not. A high frequency word like I don't only want to say site word because a site word is actually a word that we just know automatically, but a word that doesn't fit the. They predicted spelling that we would expect. So. So these decodables, it's really important that the students have access to them and they are for the students to read, not for the teacher to read to the students, which. And again, those two decodables align with the phonics elements that they are that they're learning. So you wouldn't have a word with S-H. If they haven't learned S-H, it will only have new and I mean new for that lesson and previously taught sound spellings. Unlike level text, which is what they use in the Reader's Workshop, they have level text and level text is not great. It is not good practice. There's a lot of independent reading as well for students who are not who can't read. Independent reading is a waste of time because they can't read. So they're just looking at a book or looking at the pictures. It also encourages poor reading habits, like guessing or looking at the picture to figure out the word. And that's not how we teach kids how to read. That's how we teach them to guess, not read. And we don't want to be doing that. So when kids when we're asking kids to read independently, if they can't read, it's not a good use of time because they're not learning new words they are struggling through.

Wendy: If we ask them to read independently books that they can decode, like the decodables, that's great. But and not saying that we can't have kids look at books, sometimes they just like to look at them. They like to snuggle in and just look at a picture book and we can have time for that, too. And I think that's great, especially if students don't have a lot of access to book, because even just turning a page left to right in a kindergarten class, that can be that's a huge skill knowing to track left to right, top to bottom. That's a great skill that they need to know. So there could be a time and place, but the amount of time that they're spending independent reading isn't appropriate for students who can't read. Also with level text is then those students if they're not. Reading grade level text or exposed to grade level text, that's they're never going to be able to catch up because they're not getting the vocabulary. They're not getting the more complex structure of words and sentences and text is what I should say. They're not they're not getting the same knowledge access. And so they need to every student needs access to grade level text, even if they can't read it. They need to hear those words. They need to hear that, those complex sentences, otherwise they're not going to catch up. So and the way the level text works in Benchmark is that it is at the lower grade levels. It is predictable text where kids can guess their way through it and that is setting kids up.

Wendy: We can't on one hand teach them, here's phonics. That's really important, but I'm going to give you a book that you can't apply that and all you can do is guess. And we know that that is a disproven theory of how kids learn to read the second they take their eye away from the word. We've now lost their ability to learn that word. They need to be able to look at that word and segment it, break it down to the sound spelling level, and then we apply meaning because that is going to. That's how they're going to be able to remember that word. So giving them just a simpler book with more pictures and easier words isn't going to catch them up. Because it's going to teach them to guess. It's going to teach them to look at the pictures and then they're not getting access to grade level text. And that's a real shame. And you know, Tim Shanahan, he's got a great blog about that has I saw him speak at a conference, but he also has a great blog citing tons of research where showing that actually kids learn more and can comprehend text more at their frustration level with teacher support. You know, the teacher is there to help them through it, to break down any barriers of why they can't comprehend it in the first place. But kids have more success with books that are at their frustration level. And Tim Shanahan does a lot of research on that that he cites. So leveled books. What is it? Leveled books lead to leveled lives.

DW: Yes, that's it. So when we talk this book a year ago, one comment, it's kind of stuck with me was you said we worked hard for six months to teach kids how to read. And then after six months, they're reading anthologies. And maybe I misheard that, but tell me a little bit about that when you're in California.

Wendy: So that was the curriculum that we used. I mean, for the first. Up until. Up until winter break from the beginning of the year. We spent a lot of time. We had controlled text, but it was controlled for decoding. And that's what the students read. We had strong phonics lessons, strong use of decodables that the kids actually read a lot of work with fluency. And they got their knowledge and their lessons about sentence structure and vocabulary through use of big books because they couldn't read that level of complex text. But starting around winter break, we started transitioning them with text that was partially controlled and partially not controlled, meaning for for with phonics elements that they had learned because they had pretty much learned all of the sound spellings, maybe a couple more lesser used ones were taught later. But so we would start transitioning to words that weren't always like people. For example, we hadn't taught that word people, but now it might be in the book. So we talk, so we spend time kind of breaking down. How would you figure that out now on your own? And then after about a month of that, they were able to read anthologies, which was just a collection of literature, not controlled. You know, it could be Arnold LaBelle literature. You know, it was not controlled at all for vocabulary or text or phonics elements. And they would they could read those. It was controlled for knowledge because it all went back to a theme. So that's how that worked. But so it's possible.

Wendy: And I have worked in Detroit, I've worked in Baltimore City, I've worked in Charlotte. I've worked extensively in Atlanta. And. Um, counties around there. And I have seen what explicit instruction can look like and how kids can learn. If taught. And there are a lot of barriers that kids have, especially these days with school. We've got a lot of issues that kids come to school with that, you know, that aren't even happening in school with their family, with where they live, with friends, whatever it may be. But we know how to teach reading. So let's not that be the barrier to their success. There's a lot in there. There's a lot out there about just feeding these kids. A lot of kids. And absolutely that's that's legitimate. So we've got programs in schools to help with that. We know how to teach reading. So that shouldn't be a barrier for kids. And and I think having these high expectations for kids, they can meet it. I've seen it all over the place. But again, a lot of it comes down to professional development for teachers, not just in the curriculum that they have, but in the whys. Why do we need to? Why are we having these kids do what they're doing? I didn't know when I first I didn't know what decoding was. I mean, I just taught from the guide. And then I started to learn. And when I was able to learn and understand it, then I was able to differentiate better and see the holes and what kids needed.

DW: And I think that's a good point. You can't we could buy the best curriculum, too. And if teacher gets it and just put it on the shelf and they just continue to use downloaded material off the Internet, it doesn't that can make a difference. So it has to be more than just a curriculum. It has to be in partnership with our teachers. And our community at large. So. So there's this new discrete dyslexia screening law that came into effect flagged like 43% of our k three students. As having characteristics of dyslexia. Now we know that many students don't, but it is a sign that we have a large number of students that have a low proficiency level. Like with your expertise. What do you think? What do you think that number should should be raising in terms of red flags for our community and district?

Wendy: I think there can be a lot of. Blame, if you will, on oh, it's because of this or oh, it's because of that. And not necessarily thinking, oh, it's because. That. We're just not teaching them how to read. I mean, a lot of those kids. Might just get it if they are explicitly taught it. So I know and kids who haven't been explicitly taught, for example, phonemic awareness or phonological awareness, they will they may show similar characteristics, but simply because they haven't been taught it, where in some kids they see it once, they're taught it once and they get it. Some kids may need a couple of exposures. Some kids need 20 exposures. You know, there's kind of a spectrum, if you will. But I think if we can take out the factor of what we can say. 100% that they were taught explicitly in a in a systematic way. Then if we can take that out of the equation, then we can look at, okay, so maybe it's they just need more of it. So what intervention should we provide? Maybe it's not that. Maybe it could be a totally separate factor. But I think. Right now. Minneapolis can't say. It's because we're teaching. I mean, we can't say all of these kids have been taught at explicitly. And so that needs to be looked at. And most kids do need explicit instruction. In in reading and writing, they need that explicit instruction. Incidental learning is not going to make them proficient readers. You know, they have benchmark. The Reader's Workshop has a read aloud that they suggest and then you can just kind of choose your own.

Wendy: And I saw in there, I can't remember exactly what it said, but it stuck with me. And it said that the purpose of the read aloud is to share this love of reading. So they say choose. You can use our suggestions, you can choose your own. And I think that's wonderful. And I loved sharing my love of reading with my kids. But just by sharing that a child isn't going to love reading who can't read. So I could share all my favorite books and how much I love to read and talk about reading. But if I'm not teaching them how to read, they're never going to love reading. I was a very struggling reader. Growing up, I don't have dyslexia, but I have some other learning challenges and it was not diagnosed until high school. And so I can relate to what that struggle feels like, the lack of self confidence. And I did not enjoy reading until I became an adult. I hated it because I really I struggled with it all the time until I got the help that I needed. And and so now I love it. But just teaching my kids how much I love to read isn't going to teach them how to read. So that just stuck out to me with this read aloud. I thought, here we're going back to I think that's great. But until we're actually teaching them, well, how to read. You know, my sharing, my love of reading. Isn't going to. That's one equation.

DW: Right.

Wendy: One part of the equation.

DW: And that's what Nancy Young had. And I can just flip that up real quick. Her Ladder of reading and writing. And I think this is where we look at our students in Minneapolis, and this is something that a teacher shared with us early on. She said, if you look at the test scores in Minneapolis. They align with the ladder of reading. About 40 to 50% of our kids are passing the tests, and that's the number you would kind of expect. Based upon the level of the type of instruction we deliver for students. So anyone that's I think we've presented this before, but 40 to 45% of our students need explicit and systematic instruction. 10 to 15% need even a greater level of. Systematic instruction with repetition. And this is kind of what we're failing to provide for a lot of our students here in Minneapolis.

Wendy: Right.

DW: Khulia, do you have any final questions or comments? You're on mute.

Khulia: Now. This is great. I can listen to Wendy all night, but I'll. I'll let it go. I'll stop here.

DW: All right?

Wendy: I would say.

DW: Wrap it up or. Yeah.

Wendy: Yeah. Looking from the perspective of a teacher, I did not learn in my teacher prep program how to teach this way. It didn't. I learned the language that was very big when I was getting my teaching license. I was very fortunate to be hired by a district where this was a priority under a grant. So I had to follow this curriculum, and it was very it just laid it out for me and I just assumed this is how everybody did it once they were out. This wasn't how I taught my license program. But, and. It's it's it's a lot of information and it's really hard to learn it on your own. And I feel for teachers that I think it is so empowering. Because I know these teachers, they want to make a difference and they're online at night. Scrambling to find things like maybe this will work, maybe this will work. And because I was there, you know, when I was getting my teaching license. Like just pulling from here and there to think what could work. They want to make a difference. They want to teach these kids. They just don't know how. And once you're empowered with the knowledge on how to teach reading, well, it is game changer. And it's really. You see the difference that you're making and it's wonderful. But until teachers are taught that. Or given curriculum at, you know, that they can use to do that or are expected to use it. You know, it's kind of grasping at straws. And I think at a minimum. Teachers in Minneapolis need to be expected. Again, I think this is better than nothing. For sure. I've seen a lot out there that I would say there have been many things. I say nothing is better than that. This is better than nothing, even as written. It's better than nothing versus pulling from here and there and. But teachers need to know how to teach. Even just this program to make the real difference is for teachers to be taught why this works and how to tweak it. And I think that's really important. That's going to make the difference.

DW: Great. Well, thank you very much. For being here with us tonight.

Wendy: Thank you for having me.

DW: Thank you.

Wendy: Have a good night.

DW: Thanks.

71 views0 comments


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page