Literacy is first step to succeed in school |

Literacy is first step to succeed in school

The staff of Lake Tahoe Unified School District is committed to the academic success of all of our students. The state is also interested in student achievement. The state addresses the issue of accountability for staff, administration and students through performance on state tests. These high-stakes tests and reported API scores are used to rank schools and either reward or sanction them based solely on student test scores.

The staff of LTUSD continues to emphasize state standards in their instruction and they work hard to prepare students for these tests. We see literacy as the key to this success, and will continue to focus on the literacy of our students. Our goal is to have every student reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Currently, approximately 75 percent of our students are achieving this rigorous goal. We will continue to provide a quality literacy program to all students and intervention to those students not yet meeting this goal. We also believe that test scores should also improve since these multiple choice exams rely on the ability of the student to read the questions and possible answers.

Effective teachers and strong instructional leadership by the principal are critical to achieving our literacy goal. We are focusing on the research of Richard Allington to determine what should be observable in a classroom. His study refers to the six T’s of effective literacy instruction. We are sharing this research with our principals and teaching staff. Some teachers participated in training related to this research during the fall. Others will be introduced to his research by their principal and literacy teachers at each site. We are also providing on-going, after-school training for teachers and aides who want additional support in any area related to literacy instruction.

The six features of an effective classroom include: time, texts, teaching, talk, tasks and testing. We expect to see students actually reading and writing at least 50 percent of their day. There should be a rich variety of books in their classroom and at home that they can read independently. The teacher will encourage more discussion in the classroom, posing open-ended questions to students.

Parents are encouraged to continue these conversations with students at home. Teachers will model and demonstrate useful strategies that good readers employ. Teachers will offer longer, more complex in-class assignments, with less emphasis on filling the day with multiple, shorter tasks.

Finally, teachers will emphasize effort and improvement, as well as student achievement. Parents can support this effort by not comparing their child to others, but rather placing emphasis on the amount of hard work and improvement their child demonstrates.

These strategies would probably benefit a student in any subject or any grade level. They are not simply unique to language arts. We agree with Allington’s conclusion that enhanced reading proficiency is the result of classroom teachers who provide expert, exemplary reading instruction — instruction that is responsive to children’s needs.

We will continue to improve our policies, programs and training to see that they enhance the ability of teachers to provide the six T’s in their classrooms. We would appreciate your feedback or suggestions regarding literacy instruction in our schools.

Barbara Davis is assistant superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District. She may be reached at

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