A new literacy program will be implemented throughout the Reynoldsburg school district this fall, thanks to a $1.1 million grant awarded in May by the Ohio Department of Education.
"We intend to adopt comprehensive literacy strategies to implement throughout the district so that we have a cohesive approach to literacy that takes into account equity, access and need," Superintendent Melvin Brown said. "This will occur across the K-12 spectrum, with the addition of literacy coaches for the secondary level."
Brown said part of the literacy plan submitted to the ODE included creating individual classroom libraries.
"The libraries will be coupled with strategies to support the use of them and professional development associated with the venture," he said. "We will also utilize small-group and targeted-group instruction to a higher degree."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria said Reynoldsburg's grant is among $33 million worth of grants ODE awarded to 46 school districts to help improve literacy for Ohio school children.
The funds came from the federal government last fall, when the U.S. Department of Education awarded the state a $35 million literacy grant.
DeMaria said the grants are designed to focus on serving the greatest number of students living in poverty, students with disabilities, English language learners and students identified as having reading difficulties.
"These Striving Readers grants put crucial resources directly into classrooms across the state, and we're excited to work with awardees to improve outcomes for Ohio's most vulnerable children," he said.
Brown said reading skills are the foundation for success for all students.
"This grant will support our literacy plan on several levels, including leadership, teacher training and raising awareness of a literacy-rich environment for all our children," he said.
In the grant proposal, Melisa Ray, the district's English as a Second Language coordinator, wrote that data analysis in 2016-17 of groups of Reynoldsburg students, including African American, Hispanic and multi-racial groups, showed significant deficits in fundamental reading skills. The biggest gaps in the annual measurable objectives for reading skills, according to state tests, affected 44 percent of English Language learners; 31 percent of students with disabilities and 54 percent of Hispanic students.
"We have middle and high school students who need support with word decoding, fluency and context clue support," Ray said.
She said "word attack skills" -- strategies to help figure out the meaning of an unknown word while reading -- are a part of reading foundational skills.
"At the middle and high school level, classes are (currently) content-driven with little focus on literacy skills such as vocabulary, comprehension and evaluation of text," she said.
She said the grant would give teachers support for reading instruction across grade levels and allow the district to evaluate different reading instruction resources and the best methods to support literacy.
According to the grant proposal, core reading instruction will be differentiated to meet the needs of diverse learners, based on analysis of reading data. Instructional decisions will be made by building data teams of administrators, guidance counselors, psychological staff, reading specialists and intervention specialists.
"Achievement goals will be established to close learning and achievement gaps in the context of what is developmentally appropriate for the child's current grade level, and progress-monitoring plans will be established," Ray wrote in the proposal.
She said the grant will help all students struggling with reading, but the district will put its major focus at the middle school level and higher.
"The grant will be exploring foundational literacy, vocabulary and comprehension, using evidence-based practices," she said.
"This grant will support our literacy plan on several levels, including leadership, teacher training and raising awareness of a literacy-rich environment for all our children."
-- MELVIN BROWN
Reynoldsburg schools superintendent