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Meeting with SPPS on Literacy!

Khulia Pringle arranged a meeting with the SPPS academic team today to discuss literacy in St. Paul. Here are some of our notes from the meeting.


Sue Braithwaite, K-12 Literacy Supervisor, was the primary presenter and most of the comments here are hers.


St. Paul is embarking on a plan tentatively called “Six Shifts in Elementary Literacy” based on the works of Jan Burkins and Kari Yates, two educators who wrote “Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom”.



Sue’s leadership approach has been to build a bottom up approach in supporting educators in the classroom to achieve buy-in.


SPPS educators are opting into the PD programs on their own time because of the passion and how Sue has communicated “why are we doing or why do we need to do this”.

Over 125 SPPS educators are taking the LETRS training and more would join if the funding follows. There will be a LETRS trained educator in every SPPS building next year.

Sue is taking the training herself and remarked, “I nutty love it”.


Sue has also started a book club based on “Shifting the Balance”, 175 educators are participating now with another 150 more need round. After each meeting educators are asked to implement something they learned in the classroom the next day and share with the group. This activity has been positively received and more educators are working together, sharing classroom experiences, videos, etc to support a professional team.


SPPS is using Fastbridge as their screener and has been a close partner with them to improve the assessment and make it more culturally relevant. Everybody (Assoc supe, principals, teachers, psychologists, etc) in SPPS is on Fastbridge and most have taken significant PD on how it works and a has developed a deep understanding of how to use the tool.


The biggest revelation was that a large percentage of students in SPPS didn’t know how to decode.


SPPS is working with Dr. Amy Schulting, the Dyslexia specialist with MDE on developing a process for students identified with “Characteristics of Dyslexia, to avoid having all students identified placed into special ed.


SPPS is moving away from the coaching model and moving towards providing classroom support. Every K8 school has a WINN (What I Need Now) Tier 1 instructor who provided 45 minute small group instruction to students in the building. While the WINN instructors are not coaches, they are modeling good instruction in the classroom as part of their small group instruction.


In 4th grade and up, SPPS has implemented SIPPS interventions for students identified in the Red Zone on the FastBridge screener. The biggest issue for the older students is they have not been taught how to decode text. What they are seeing is once kids are taught to read, they are passing the MCA reading test. For students that need work on comprehension, they have a follow up intervention called On-Track.


SPFE (St. Paul Federation of Educators) is supporting the initiative as they see it working, support having a partner in the classroom and feel the professional development is improving their craft. Most of the educators acknowledged their college education program didn’t prepare them to teach kids to read and appreciate the additional support also realizing cobbling together information Teachers pay Teachers isn’t realistic approach.

SPPS didn’t teach phonics with fidelity for 5 years prior and implemented F&P phonics curriculum three years ago. They are now realizing there are gaps in the curriculum and are looking at making changes including bringing in Heggerty to help with phonemic awareness.

Will attach the presentation in the comments once I receive from SPPS.


SPPS Leadership in attendance: Maijue Lochungvu, Susan Braithwaite, Craig Anderson, and the retiring head of Teaching and Learning.

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