Literacy Instruction

Literacy instruction at District 90 begins in preschool and continues through the elementary years, with a focus on the early elementary years and evolving into overall English and language arts instruction in the upper elementary and middle school years.   District 90 educators use a multifaceted approach to teaching reading instruction, leveraging multiple strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners, targeting phonemic awareness, phonics, word study/vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills.   

In the early years, teachers place a strong emphasis on phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, and phonics, which is understanding how spoken sounds can be represented by written letters.  Both are the basis for the ability to decode, or “sound out,” words.   In Kindergarten and first grade, students receive explicit daily phonemic awareness instruction, which continues on the majority of days through second grade.  Starting in Kindergarten, students receive 20-30 minutes per day of phonics instruction, which includes spelling and word study in the later grades.  As students progress, more focus is placed on fluency, the ability to read accurately and quickly, and comprehension, the ability to understand the meaning of the words read.

Current Curricular Resources

Instructors use a portfolio of curricular resources to support classroom instruction, each selected for a specific purpose. The curricular resources are coordinated and integrated across and between grade levels, so that students are continually building upon learning in the prior years.  Heggerty: The Skills They Need to Help Them Succeed!  is used for phonemic awareness instruction in grades Kindergarten through second grade.  Fundations, by Wilson Language Training,  is used  to teach phonics in Kindergarten.  Fountas and Pinnell Phonics, Word Study, and Spelling System  is used for phonics, spelling, and word study for first grade through fifth. Grammar and word study continues through middle school, with Grammar Keepers used in grades five and six, and Patterns of Power used in grades five through eight.  Units of Study is used for reading comprehension from Kindergarten to 8th grade. 

Looking Forward: Future Plans for Literacy Instruction in D90

In September 2023, District 90 initiated a comprehensive review of our literacy curriculum, with the goal of identifying and implementing improved resources for reading instruction. The review is led by The District 90 Literacy Curriculum Review Committee, which is composed of teachers, instructional specialists, and administrators from across the school district.  Involving teachers and instructional specialists in the review process is critical to ensuring that the resulting curriculum choice is an excellent fit for our students across grade levels and will be implemented with fidelity. 

Successful implementation of a new curriculum is a multi-step process, including review of recent research, evaluating possible curricula, piloting preferred alternatives, reviewing results, selecting the strongest program(s), and providing development for teachers in how to deploy the new materials.   While selection and implementation of a new curriculum can typically require up to two years, the Committee has accelerated their process to enable piloting the new curriculum in September 2024, approval of the new curriculum in December 2024, and implementation across all schools in January 2025.

Literacy Curriculum Review Committee Progress 

On December 5, 2023, the Board of Education held a Literacy Instruction Forum to enable learning and discussion on the topic among parents and community members.  After a presentation on the current and future literacy instruction in D90, community participants engaged in small group discussion at tables with a D90 Administrator and Board Member.  Review the presentation.  

On January 9, 2024, the Literacy Curriculum Review Committee gave an update at the Board of Education Committe of the Whole Meeting on their work reviewing potential new curricular resources.  Review the presentation and vetting rubrics by grade level group.  

On March 5, 2024, the Literacy Review Committee gave an update on progress at the Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting.  Since January, the Literacy Committee completed a paper review of possible curricular resources across all elementary and middle school grades,  reviewed the final version of the Illinois Comprehensive Literacy Plan released by the Illinois State Board of Education in January, and identified a short list of materials in consideration for the fall pilots.  The group determined that there are very few comprehensive programs meeting criteria for pilots in all areas including phonics and phonemic awareness at this time.  The committee continues to explore a portfolio of materials which can be used to accomplish the District’s goals, including updated materials from Heggerty and Fundations.  The Committee also began to outline plans for more closely integrating reading and writing instruction in middle school.  Review the presentation shared with the Board here.

On April 15, 2024, The Literacy Review Committee gave an update on progress at the Board of Education meeting, using these slides.  The group of 33 District 90 educators representing each grade level completed their evaluation of the possible curricular resources working in grade-level bands, using rubrics and a scoring scale.  Prior to the review, the group conducted a comprehensive review of the latest research on how kids learn to read and write, compiled in this spreadsheet.  

Because the group determined this winter that none of the comprehensive programs adequately address foundational skills for the lower grades (such as phonics and phonemic awareness), a pilot is already underway this spring with two resources, “Fundations Foundational Skills”, published by Wilson Language Training Corporation and “Bridge to Reading Foundational Skills,” published by Heggerty.  

For the fall 2024 pilots across all grade levels, the group identified two resources for grades K-5, “Into Reading,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and “Being a Reader” and “Being a Writer,” published by Collaborative Classroom.  The group identified two resources for grades 6-8, “Wit and Wisdom,” published by Great Minds and “EL Education,” published by Imagine Learning.  Estimated materials and training costs for the pilot are $36,821. 

Next steps include securing estimates for the cost of full adoption for each program, finalizing teachers and curricular units for each pilot, and conducting training for the teachers participating in the pilot, to occur this summer.  Following the conclusion of the pilots in early fall, the final curricula will be chosen, with materials ordered late fall and training scheduled for all teachers who will use it to occur in early winter, prior to full adoption of the new resources in early 2025.  The adoption will be one of the largest undertaken by the D90 schools in the past decade.

During the Jun 4, 2024 Committee of the Whole Meeting, the Literacy Review Committee gave an update on the anticipated costs of adoption of each of the curricular materials that the District is considering.  As instructional materials now incorporate more comprehensive assessment, enhanced progress monitoring, and expanded professional learning support, prices have increased substantially since the last English language arts materials adoption in 2018.  Review the overview, or acces all the board meeting materials housed in Boardbook



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