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Literacy Recommendation Letter for Discussion at 12/15 Committee of the Whole

To: Supt. Ed Graff, Cabinet,

cc: Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education

Since our initial letter to MPS we have had multiple conference calls with parents, teachers, literacy specialists, Dyslexia advocacy groups, Groves Academy and a partner school, MDE, and other community members who are concerned about literacy instruction.

Emily Hanford was interviewed this weekend. She has spent the last four years reporting on early literacy instruction for American Public Media. She commented that while researchers have figured out how to get 90-95% of students as “decent” readers, what is settled science in the research community is still in its infancy as to how to bring that into practice into a school district or classroom.

Conversations with parents in neighboring districts shared with us the same concerns about literacy instruction. There is a growing chorus for districts to examine how we teach children to read: Emily Hanford’s reporting, state legislatures across the country passing laws to support early literacy, and a growing number of lawsuits where districts are being sued for failure to teach children how to read.

Minneapolis Public Schools has the opportunity to take a leadership position in Minnesota if our Board, District, and community are willing to prioritize early literacy.

The public comments made by our advocacy group that MPS is teaching children to be “poor readers” was based on the Fast eReading data showing after a year of instruction the number of proficient SOC readers drops by 36%, the testimonials from parents, conversations with teachers and advocates, and the body of research on how to teach children how to read.


The Simple View of Reading breaks Reading Comprehension into a formula of RC = Decoding x Language Comprehension. The scope of our initial communication focused on the new MN Dyslexia screening and identification law that is based on the decoding side of the equation. Ultimately, we know that to be successful readers students need to learn how to decode text and use their vocabulary and background knowledge to comprehend text and grow as lifelong learners.

We know this is a massive multi-year undertaking that requires significant resources, technical expertise, and buy in across the organization and from the community.

Our recommendation breaks this task down into two components:

MPS Academic’s department partners with community, teachers, schools, MFT, community organizations to build out a culturally relevant, sequenced K-12 knowledge based liberal arts curriculum that educates our children in the sciences, social sciences, arts, history, etc.

MPS finds a partner organization that can bring in high level technical expertise around teaching foundational decoding skills.

In conjunction with partner organization(s) MPS develops plans to:

  • Train and provide ongoing PD for elementary teachers on core literacy instruction

  • Train all teachers on locating, identifying, informing guardians, students who are struggling readers or those with “characteristics of dyslexia”.

  • Train teachers on data-based decision making and interventions to address skill gaps

  • Train specialists and special ed teachers to provide higher levels of evidence-based support to struggling readers

  • Implement explicit, systematic, multisensory evidence-based curriculum

  • Align district policies and practices with MN State Law(s) and MDE ELA standards

  • Develop notification assessment reporting system for parents/guardians to educate them when students are being identified and actionable areas beyond their quartile ranking.

  • Ongoing review and refinement of practices that can be shared across the organization.

We would be happy to have a conference call with anyone that would like to discuss this letter further. Please let us know.


Sara Spafford Freeman David Weingartner

For more information visit:

or join our Academics Advocacy Facebook Group for a conversation on academics in MPS.

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