In September 2008, shortly after becoming Superintendent of East Hartford Public Schools, the administrators and I began an extensive review of student performance data. The most glaring weakness was in literacy across all grade levels.
In this urban district of more than 8,000 students, 70% eligible for free and reduced lunch, low graduation rates, half-day kindergarten classes with high enrollment, etc., we developed a district literacy plan. An essential element was instituting full day kindergarten with strong literacy and numeracy programs along with a first-grade early intervention reading program. Thus, at-risk students received the critical support they needed before experiencing frustrated and failure.
Through on-going, intensive professional development, early childhood educators revamped their curriculum, increased their proficiency in implementing effective teaching strategies, examined the use of time in relation to student achievement and designed assessments that were used to determine mastery of objectives and the direction of future instruction.
With scare resources, the district adopted Teaching Literacy Competency (TLC), a first-grade intervention reading program similar in lesson design to Reading Recovery. All first-grade teachers and paraprofessionals who staffed the program engaged in intensive training, coaching and support.
The results were remarkable. After just two years, kindergarten students were demonstrating higher levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy, were better prepared for the first-grade curriculum and greater numbers of students demonstrated proficiency on the third-grade Connecticut Mastery Test.
– Marion H. Martinez, Ed.D.