Dear Chair Ellison and MPS School Board,
We are writing to request MPS School Board amend its legislative agenda to include support for funds for professional development around literacy. The Minnesota legislature has held hearings on SF244/HF288 which would provide $2 million in state grants over two years, for Minnesota teachers to receive professional development in reading and spelling instruction through the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) program.
LETRS is not a curriculum, it is an online training program, which provides teachers with in-depth knowledge based on the most current research of both foundational and higher-level literacy skills. Teachers learn how to deliver more effective instruction to meet all their students’ needs. LETRS is an investment in our teachers, giving them the tools to more effectively provide reading and spelling instruction.
Sara Spafford Freeman testified in support of this bill before the House Education Finance Committee and David Weingartner testified in support of this bill before the Senate Education Finance Committee. (Links to the videos of our testimony are included below)
The Minnesota Department of Education has piloted LETRS at 28 sites with 340 participants and supports LETRS training. Dr. Amy Schulting testified and shared the significant impact that the training has had on improving academic outcomes.
The Ely School District was one of the pilot sites for LETRS and reported in the hearing their K-2 have not suffered learning loss during the pandemic as LETRS has helped them be better teachers.
The lack of training related to how children learn to read has been shared with us in our conversations with MPS teachers and from teachers in public testimony at the hearing on this bill. Minnesota teachers, Jasmine Lane and Jon Gustafson wrote, “We were not prepared for the responsibility of the job. This failure to prepare teachers, we believe, should be a red flag for the current system in place for how we train and place teachers into classrooms.”
We know that in MPS the result of supporting students that have not mastered foundational literacy skills in the earlier grades are extensive intervention costs, increased behavior and social emotional issues, and lifetime struggles.
The data on early literacy presented to the Board shows our district is in absolute crisis when it comes to elementary literacy.
Source: MPS Board Academic Presentation: October 22, 2019
Teachers need your support to access this professional development that generally has not been offered to them by higher education institutions.
Literacy is a social justice issue, and racial gaps in literacy proficiency represent a major equity issue. MPS has the opportunity to be a leader in supporting evidence-based literacy tools, including professional development like LETRS - something our teachers want, and our students desperately need. We urge you to amend the Legislative agenda and support this bipartisan bill which provides evidence-based professional development to our teachers.
We are happy to answer any questions about this bill or other questions about the conversations we have been having with community leaders, parents, and teachers on literacy. Let us know if you would like to setup a call for further discussion.
Sara Spafford Freeman David Weingartner
Videos of the Hearings: House Education Finance Committee (LETRS starts at 43:22)