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MPS Academic Response to our Letter

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

1. What tools & criterion will MPS use to screen students in K-2 and 3-12?

● K-8: FAST

● K-1: earlyReading

● 2-8: aReading

● 9: MAP

2. How will the District use these tools to determine whether a student might have characteristics of dyslexia, and how will it distinguish between dyslexia/decoding challenges and other reading difficulties that may appear in early elementary?

Tools:​ A screener is an assessment that shows student academic information at a high level. It is designed to provide a quick indication of how students are performing in a very broad sense. If the screener indicates that a student is at risk and needs support, a diagnostic assessment is administered. A diagnostic will identify specific instructional needs in a given area. At the start of the school year, Kindergarten and 1st​ ​ grade teachers administer the earlyReading assessment. This assessment functions both as a screener and as a diagnostic. Students in grades 2-5 take the aReading assessment as a screener and follow up diagnostic assessments based on their performance on the screener. Students take the screeners three times a year. (aReading was not administered Fall 2020).

Dyslexia vs reading difficulties:​ Students who have been identified as needing support (though the screener) and diagnostics have been administered to identify the student’s specific area of instruction, the teacher will begin to provide small group differentiated instruction that specifically addresses what skill the student needs (identified from the diagnostic).

i. As students receive instruction, the teacher monitors their progress​ . By monitoring​ progress the teacher will know the degree to which students are succeeding in their small group.

1. Progress monitoring tells the teacher two things:

a. If the student is progressing as expected and showing growth and when the diagnosed need has been addressed. If the student is progressing as expected and is showing growth, the intervention is working. The student will receive the intervention until the student has met the benchmark.

b. If the student is not progressing as expected and not showing growth in the area of need, the teacher will intensify the instruction by increasing minutes and/or providing instruction in an even smaller setting (1-3 students). The teacher will continue to monitor progress. Again, if the​ student is progressing as expected and is showing growth, the intervention is working and will continue until the benchmark is met. If in this more intensive setting the student is not progressing as expected, the teacher will consult with a team to determine next steps.

Important to note:​ there are important considerations that must be factored into each student’s situation. All external variables that could impact a student’s performance must be ruled out. For example, attendance, health related factors (i.e.: hearing, vision, ADD, ADHD), English language acquisition, and others might be impacting a student’s performance. These variables must be ruled out.

3. What criterion will determine whether additional literacy services/resources are offered to students?

○ Based on screening data, diagnostics and interventions are determined.

4. How will the district determine what level of service is required?

○ MPS uses a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS model) to identify students that need intervention by engaging in routine data dive and diagnostic assessment cycles. Screening assessment data is collected, organized and analyzed during the fall, winter and spring to determine and update schoolwide and classroom instructional profiles with the purpose of collaboratively planning multiple ways to respond to the findings.

School teams gather together to discuss the implications of screener data and ways to respond to it. These meetings focus on: the analysis of scores relative to grade-level benchmarks, plan for the administration of diagnostic assessments for students in need of intervention, and devising a plan to monitor student growth towards the mastery of standards in literacy.

The following are resources for K-8 teachers to administer further diagnostic tests and follow up interventions, if needed.

*modified for Distance Learning

By collecting, organizing, and preparing diagnostic data for progress monitoring and collaborative analysis, teachers provide valuable information necessary to inform fellow stakeholders of student progress. Decision-making about individual student needs, to include either the intensification of interventions, can then be collectively addressed during MTSS Core Instructional Review meetings.

Benchmark Advance/Adelante also has intervention materials that include phonological awareness and phonics lessons and skills checks. Cuing or phonics should never be taught in isolation, but always in combination with each other. Lexia Core5 alerts teachers to provide additional instruction when students are struggling in areas of reading.

○ In Secondary Literacy, Lexia PowerUp is used during Tier 2 interventions. Lexia PowerUP will flag when students struggle with a skill so teachers provide additional direct support and instruction. Students who are below grade level and not making adequate reading growth will be assigned to a reading intervention course in addition to Core ELA. During a reading intervention course (tier 2/tier 3), students receive extended and differentiated reading instruction in small groups in addition to engaging in the adaptive Lexia PowerUp program.

5. How will core instruction change to accommodate these students (rather than pulling these students out of the classroom)?

The goals of core instruction, grade level standards, do not change. Strategies and scaffolds are​ put in place in order for students who are struggling to access grade level core instruction. As noted above, students who are struggling and need additional support receive small group instruction​ that has been identified from diagnostic data. The small group instruction is in addition​ ​ to core instruction so students’ gaps are being addressed while at the same time engaging with grade level​ instruction so new gaps aren’t created.

○ Goal and example of instruction of small group instruction

1st Grade Example: Using Assessment to Instruction


Screener result More support is needed _____________________________________________________________________

Sample area of instruction determined Phonological Awareness: Word

by diagnostic result: Segmenting _____________________________________________________________________ Example of differentiated instruction based Students will be able to isolate,

on assessment data: identify, blend, and segment individual phones in words. Teacher will provide explicit direct

instruction, students will practice with

feedback from the teacher, and then

engage in an activity with their peers. The

teacher meets with this small group 3

times a week for 15 minutes

6. How will the needs of students of color be prioritized, given the disproportionate rate at which they experience reading struggles in MPS?

○ With the recent expectation that all schools give follow-up diagnostic assessments (based on information determined from screener data), students' specific skill gaps are identified. In the past, screeners told us that there were gaps in literacy, but there was inconsistent implementation of the diagnostics to know what to do next. As of 2018-2019, it is an expectation that teachers use information gathered from diagnostic assessments to plan for specific interventions.

7. How will MPS notify parents, especially BIPOC parents whose children face the largest disparities in the district?

○ If a student is reading below grade level, MPS requires teachers to share that information with the student’s parent/guardian/caretaker at least once a year. Caregivers are notified if their student is reading below grade level on the student’s report card. Additionally, teachers can share information during conferences, or during other times the teacher meets with the caretaker.

8. When will MPS invest in a research based synthetic phonics-based curriculum that teaches in a sequential, systematic, multi-sensory and cumulative manner?

○ Benchmark Advance/Adelante is grounded in research. All K-5 MPS teachers use Benchmark​ Advance/Adelante to teach MN ELA State Standards with a focus on the five areas of reading:​ phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Included are 20 minutes of daily phonological awareness and phonics instruction for all students in K-2. Benchmark

Advance/Adelante’s core curriculum and intervention materials support instruction through explicit direct instruction, assessment, small group work and interventions, if needed. In PK, Houghton​ Mifflin’s Big Day for PreK is used for literacy instruction.

○ In addition, beginning school year 2020-21 all K-8 students have access to Lexia Core5 (K-5) or PowerUP (6-8) this is a differentiated and adaptive computer-based program, to support student reading skill development in the five areas of reading.

○ During the ‘19-’20 school year, approximately 40% of teachers responded to surveys for our literacy evaluation. The data from the literacy evaluation concluded that implementation of Benchmark Advance/Adelante is inconsistent across MPS. Therefore, starting in ‘20-’21 and moving forward it is an expectation that all teachers will be using the district approved curriculum (Benchmark Advance/Adelante) with fidelity.

9. When will MPS train teachers and principals on the science of reading, how to implement evidence-based curriculum, and how to assess students?

○ Ongoing Professional Development

i. In September 2020​ :​

1. all MPS K-5 teachers were required to participate in Elementary Literacy Professional Development Session focusing on literacy progressions

2. K-5 teachers, administrators, and instructional/differentiation specialists received training on implementing the Lexia Core5, analyzing RCore5 data, and using Core5 tools and resources for differentiated support and intervention. Teachers also receive training on using Core5 data and resources to inform instruction.

3. 6-8th grade teachers, administrators, and instructional/differentiation specialists received training on implementing the Lexia RAPID assessment, analyzing RAPID and PowerUp data, and using Lexia tools and resources for differentiated support and intervention. Teachers also receive training on using Lexia data and resources to inform core ELA instruction.

ii. In October, 2019​ MPS Principals participated in an information meeting and ​ trainin g. They were to disseminate information to staff

iii. In September 2018​ , all MPS K-5 teachers were required to attend professional development​ about using Benchmark Advance/Adelante to teach foundational (phonics) skills and word study.

10. Per the statute, an assessment must also be administered if “Students in grade 3 or higher demonstrate a reading difficulty to a classroom teacher”.

○ Will dyslexia assessments in grades 3 or after be prompted by classroom teachers alone, or will formal screening tools be employed?

i. Teachers do not formally assess for dyslexia, but rather engage in a process that identifies student needs, instructs the student in those areas, monitors the student’s progress, reviews data, and determines next steps (see response to #2: Dyslexia vs reading difficulties​ )​ . If students are not showing progress, a team (including the student’s caretaker) will gather to determine next steps.

○ How will teachers be trained to assess & identify students to refer for assessment?

i. Prior to administering a diagnostic assessment, teachers are required to be certified in each diagnostic they administer.

○ What criterion will determine whether additional services/resources are offered to these students?

i. See Literacy Assessment Flowchart below

How will MPS measure & track how many students receive dyslexia assessments and what % are referred on for services?

i. Dyslexia is not assessed in the school or via MPS. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.

○ How will MPS tier & administer services?

i. Based on assessment flowchart.

○ How will MPS prioritize the needs of students of color

i. all PK-12 teachers were required to attend Curriculum Transformation professional development sessions. These sessions focused on ensuring that students receive a highly engaging learning experience that reflects and celebrates the cultures, values, and lived experiences within our MPS communities. By incorporating research-based best practices in curriculum development, racial identity development, and our commitment to culturally sustaining practices.

ii. Ensuring all teachers have a firm understanding of literacy practices and are able to access support through building coaching or district-level professional development

iii. Implementation of screener and diagnostic assessments as well as close monitoring of tiered interventions.

11. Studies have shown that 85% of students in the juvenile correction system are illiterate. Has the District ever cross-referenced discipline referral data and academic proficiency data? How much overlap is there between discipline referrals and academic proficiency? ○ Do not have this information

12. When the District's own data demonstrate that ~50% of Kindergarten & 1st grade students aren't meeting basic reading proficiency standards, at what point does the literacy curriculum become a more significant part of the discussion?

● See the CDD Academic Plan response

13. Slide 75 states that of the teachers that are using the Benchmark phonics program, 98% agreed or strongly agreed they are useful.

● This is fact based on 40% teacher respondents (only 40% of teachers responded to the survey)

14. What percentage of teachers are using the Benchmark phonics program? What are teachers utilizing who are not using Benchmark?

● It is expected that all K-5 teachers implement Benchmark Advance/Adelante and Lexia Core5 with fidelity

15. The teachers we have spoken with have a different opinion about the Benchmark phonics program.

“Scattered, not grounded in science, etc”.

● This is not the opinion of all teachers. The implementation of Benchmark Foundations requires both skill in understanding the progression of literacy as well as curriculum implementation. Despite only receiving 40% of responses from teachers in the literacy evaluation, it is clear that our instructional practices need more support in both of the areas listed above.

16. The Fast eReading test scores presented at the October Board meetings showed a significant decline in % proficient across all subgroups from Fall to Spring. How does the district align the disparity between teachers indicating the curriculum is “useful” and the large drop in percent of students proficient between Fall and Spring?

● The decline from fall to spring was a trend for earlyReading assessments. Typically, the benchmarks for Fall are much lower than spring benchmarks and this impacts student’s proficiency.

● MPS anticipated an increase in proficiency for spring 2020. This increase was expected because of goals set for all schools for kindergarten proficiency. Due to Distance Learning, assessments were not given to measure student progress.

17. What is the opinion of the teachers not using the Benchmark phonics program? Were any metrics gathered around the phonics curriculum that are not being presented?

● This specific information has not been collected from teachers. Informal, anecdotal information may be resulting in this speculation.

18. How does the district’s goals for Reading Well by Third grade differ from what is being implemented at the site and classroom level?

● This specific information has not been collected from teachers. Informal, anecdotal information may be resulting in this speculation.

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