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Letter to MPS regarding Literacy Instruction

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

November 6, 2020 updated 11/22/2020 To: Supt. Ed Graff, Cabinet, cc: Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education According to recent federal data, more than 60% of U.S. 4th graders cannot read at grade-level – this rate is even higher in Minneapolis Public Schools; and numerous studies have demonstrated a high correlation between struggling to read and everything from behavior problems in school and school drop-out rates, to living in poverty and increased interactions with the criminal justice system. MPS is no stranger to this problem, and deep and persistent racial disparities in our community both contribute to and result from the inability of too many students to read. Among the students struggling to read are many with undiagnosed specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia. We want to better understand how MPS will both assess and serve students who are struggling to read. Exacerbating the issues facing MPS’s ability to ensure all students can read, is a decades-long battle over literacy curricula and broader strategies related to teaching children how to read. Despite overwhelming science demonstrating the necessity and benefits of a phonics-based approach to literacy in early ages, MPS continues to utilize a literacy curriculum not rooted in this science. In accordance with the State of Minnesota’s recently enacted Dyslexia Screening Requirement per Minnesota Statute 120B.12. Subd. 2. MPS must screen students in grades K-2 students for characteristics of dyslexia and report its efforts to the state. Students in grade 3 or higher who demonstrate a reading difficulty to a classroom teacher must be screened, in a locally determined manner, for characteristics of dyslexia, unless a different reason for the reading difficulty has been identified. MPS must notify parents and provide intervention and then report findings to the state. This law went into effect for the 2020-2021 school year. MPS must have per Minnesota Statute 122A.06, a comprehensive, scientifically based reading instruction based on valid replicable evidence. The state of MN per SF196/HF 1494 has updated the requirement for college teacher ed programs to include instruction on dyslexia and must require instruction in evidence-based, structured reading programs. We would like to see more details and information from MPS related to how this mandate will be implemented including: 1. What tools & criterion will MPS use to screen students in K-2 and 3-12? 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? 3. What criterion will determine whether additional literacy services/resources are offered to students? 4. How will the district determine what level of service is required? 5. How will core instruction change to accommodate these students (rather than pulling these students out of the classroom)? 6. How will the needs of students of color be prioritized, given the disproportionate rate at which they experience reading struggles in MPS? 7. How will MPS notify parents, especially BIPOC parents whose children face the largest disparities in the district? 8. When will MPS invest in a research based synthetic phonics-based curriculum that teaches in a sequential, systematic, multi-sensory and cumulative manner? 9. When will MPS train teachers and principals on the science of reading, how to implement evidence-based curriculum, and how to assess students? Per the statute, an assessment must also be administered if “Students in grade 3 or higher demonstrate a reading difficulty to a classroom teacher”. 1. Will dyslexia assessments in grades 3 or after be prompted by classroom teachers alone, or will formal screening tools be employed? 2. How will teachers be trained to assess & identify students to refer for assessment? 3. What criterion will determine whether additional services/resources are offered to these students? 4. How will MPS measure & track how many students receive dyslexia assessments and what % are referred on for services? 5. How will MPS tier & administer services? 6. How will MPS prioritize the needs of students of color Additionally, we would like to better understand how “big” the problem of decoding is in the district and how MPS will not only measure but disclose/discuss the incidence rate of students with characteristics of dyslexia in K-12 students. We would like to see the District perform a retrospective assessment of 2018 FastBridge data to determine approximately how many students would meet the criterions MPS will employ to identify students requiring characteristics of dyslexia assessment and/or literacy services – this will allow greater insight into the scope of incidence in MPS and the scale of what will be required to address it. Signed,

Sara Spafford-Freeman David Weingartner MPS Parent MPS Parent

Additional Signers:

Rachel Moritz Charisma Smith Hoa Nguyen Bridget Gernander Mikisha Nation Megan Larson Naomi Hertsgaard Shannon Gruidl Khulia Pringle Suzanne van den Hoogenhof Anne Melzer Aletha Wilks Laura Cox Katie Krebs

Emily Jones

Ian Lyon

Annika Ewing

Carrie Johnson

Rachel Ireland-Henry

Reeve Ridgeway

Erin Trapp

Maureen Stoesz

Janelle Voyakin

Rachel Widome

Christina McHenry

Theresa Bernard

Bethany Motz

Rachael Joseph

Kathy Cook

Giselle Restrepo

Elizabeth Collins-Dippel

Cassie Zonnenfeid

Leslie Bohl

Leah Auckenthaler

Stacey Chase

Sarah Johnston

Kate Derickson

Brittany Barrett

Alisha Johnson

Roxanne Draughn

Marea Perry

Tonya Draughn

MN Parent Union


Marea Perry

Joanne Hodgeman

Carolyn Helling Brownlie

David Brownlie

Jen Antila

Tara Brown

Marea Perry

Kartumu King

Tegan Johnson

Lori Anderson

Sherry Nix

Maria Padilla

Maria Cisneros

Jenifer Davis

Fatoun Ali

Mustafa Dyrie

Kay Comeaux

Marva Lynn Shelneberger

Jennifter Fritz

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