For Ohio districts, the road to reading achievement must be a carefully orchestrated plan that reflects evidence-based practices and, more importantly, results. With Ohio’s Striving Readers Grant funding, Mt. Healthy City Schools has launched LETRS, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. Mt. Healthy elementary teachers began training with evidence-based practices utilizing the LETRS program. These practices allow teachers to implement systematic reading instruction with any curriculum, as well as, address the components of the Simple View of Reading. The two-year program starts by building a basic understanding of the science of reading in order for students to “break the code of reading.” It focuses on the five big ideas of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Teachers are reminded that reading is not the natural process that was once thought, and can be quite difficult for young children, especially if they lack adequate background knowledge or vocabulary. Through this specific type of professional development, teachers will be able to identify and target deficits in each student’s reading ability and provide the interventions needed to close the gap. The LETRS program includes face-to-face training, online modules, and printed materials that offer examples and visual illustrations. In addition, during professional development days, teachers have opportunities for hands-on activities to take back into their classrooms. Two months into professional development, elementary teachers are saying, “LETRS should continue,” “ Our instructor was engaging and very informative,” “ I like that the presenter is able to make meaningful connections to students to help them grow as readers / writers.”
The ultimate goal of the LETRS program is to build the capacity of teachers to Implement research and evidenced-based strategies within core reading programs in order to identify and then address specific gaps in students’ reading skills and increase their language and literacy growth. The program is directly tied to the district’s literacy goal within the strategic plan, Education Destination. Additionally, it also aligns with the Ohio Department of Education’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement.