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LCMSD Literacy Update
Larkspur-Corte Madera School District
Dear LCMSD Community,
Happy New Year! In education we are fortunate to have two "New Years" each academic cycle. These come with reflection, inspiration, and goals to further our practice. A major reflection and area of study for me has been regarding our literacy program. Below are my thoughts, as well as plans to advance our district. I appreciate you taking the time to read this message.
On May 22, 2022, the New York Times published this article regarding Lucy Calkins and I followed up with this district-wide message. My goal was to clarify our practices in LCMSD, specifically citing our commitments to phonics, spelling, and word study in conjunction with readers and writers workshop.
Currently, there is an American Public Media podcast, Sold a Story, that is gaining national attention. It focuses on the science of reading, Marie Clay, Fountas and Pinnell, and Lucy Calkins. I listened to this over break and I would strongly recommend it. The core issue I gleaned from this podcast is how Reading Recovery, Fountas and Pinnell, and Lucy Calkins utilize(d) the three-cueing system rather than aligning curriculum with word recognition findings within the science of reading research. This is incredibly important for developing readers, as well as when providing intervention.
Where this podcast falls short, in my opinion, is its celebration of districts abandoning Fountas and Pinnell and Calkins. This felt like the pendulum swing we experience all too much in education. There were core issues identified and they can be addressed without abandoning other practices that are successful in teaching literacy such as explicit mini lessons, conferring with students, small group instruction, interactive read alouds, and classroom libraries filled with high interest, authentic texts.
In 2018, LCMSD formally adopted Lucy Calkins Units of Study with a commitment to professional development provided by Momentum in Teaching. LCMSD selected Momentum over Columbia facilitators for several reasons. First, Momentum staff developers have practiced literacy instruction that involves reading workshop, writing workshop, and phonics, spelling, and word study. They were trained by Columbia, but put their own spin on literacy instruction to align with these practices. Momentum also made this work accessible to teachers in a way that provides the nuts and bolts while honoring teachers’ professional judgment. I looked back to our first professional development day with Momentum (August 2018), where the importance of phonics, spelling, and word study instruction were infused into the session with examples of explicit instruction. These core components of literacy instruction were also identified in our teachers guide for building the elementary schedule.
After adopting Lucy Calkins Units of Study, the literacy leadership team then identified a phonics adoption for K-2 and phonics, spelling, and word study resources for grades 3 and above. Additionally, LCMSD has identified Fountas and Pinnell as our elementary reading assessment and Leveled Literacy Intervention as our base program to support struggling readers.
After listening to the podcast, you may be wondering, now what for LCMSD? Between the NYT article, Sold a Story, a number of other articles, and countless discussions with colleagues, I have been pondering the same question. However, it all goes back to a core belief - in education we never “arrive,” we are continually learning and evolving. This time is no different. Here are my initial thoughts for our next steps in response to the burning question - now what?
If you would like to learn more about these updates we will be holding a coffee chat at 8:30am on January 18 in the Cove Gallery. Additionally, we will be providing the Board with a literacy update the evening of January 18 at 6:00 in the Hall Library. We hope to see you there.
I realize this email was packed with information and appreciate you taking the time to digest it. One of the major draws to the field of education is that it is always evolving. I appreciate being on this journey with our LCMSD team. Our goal is to continually refine practices to yield the greatest student outcomes.
Dr. Brett Geithman
Board of Trustees
Annie Sherman, President
Eric Schmautz, Vice President
Amir Movafaghi, Clerk