WL-S board considering Literacy Collaborative


By Casey S. Elliott - celliott@civitasmedia.com



WEST LIBERTY – In an effort to improve student achievement, West Liberty-Salem Local Schools administrators are looking into Literacy Collaborative.

Literacy Collaborative is a nationwide literacy model, taught at Ohio State University and Lesley University in Massachusetts. It is a framework, not a curriculum, that provides strategies and coaching to help teachers with student reading and achievement.

The program is pricey, as it includes ongoing training for literacy coaches every year, who then spend time in the district both teaching and coaching other teachers. It is being used in some schools in the state such as Northwestern Local Schools. Area schools such as Graham Local Schools are starting to use the program.

Since the program is a framework, its benefits translate to more than just reading, Superintendent Kraig Hissong said. Its strategies can be used in other disciplines, since reading and writing proficiency are needed in many subjects.

Hissong said the school district’s student achievement is doing well, but students are not seeing as much growth in their knowledge from year to year as administrators would like. This program may help improve that growth.

The program’s strategies change over time, as data received from other participating schools is shared with Literacy Collaborative, which adjusts its framework to reflect what is working with students. That is why the coaches need to receive yearly instruction.

Hissong told the school board at a March 8 work session he would like to see the district commit to five years of the program. The first year would involve training the coaches. The second year would have the coaches begin training teachers. The rest of the years would begin showing how effective the program is with West Liberty-Salem students.

The program would be for kindergarten to grade 5. Hissong said he would like to see the district have two coaches: one for kindergarten to grade 2, and one for grade 3 to 5. Those coaches would be coaches half of their time, in classrooms helping the rest of the teachers implement the Literacy Collaborative strategies, and be teachers the rest of the day. This gives them first-hand knowledge of how the strategies work in their own classrooms, which they can pass on to others.

Costly program

The cost is high. Hissong estimated the cost for a Step 0 master’s degree teacher to be more than $350,000 over five years; if the teacher is a step 10 master’s degree, the estimated cost jumps to more than $450,000 over five years. Those costs include training through the program, the cost to hire two half-time teachers, substitute costs for when the coaches are at OSU getting training, hotel and travel costs for the trips by coaches to obtain training, and the possibility of purchasing more and different books for the school library to give students a variety of books to meet their reading needs.

The district may see some reduced costs as a result of implementing the program. Hissong said the district needs to bring in an updated reading curriculum if it does not start Literacy Collaborative, which is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $115,000. And, that curriculum should be updated approximately every five years. The district is in its seventh year of the current reading curriculum.

“It’s not enough to make up for all the cost, but we may end up with some savings by doing it,” he said.

Hissong said the district may see some savings after using Literacy Collaborative. Other districts reduced the number of special education students because of the framework, which may allow the district to reduce a teacher in that area.

The school board wanted more information about how effective the framework has been for other districts and student achievement. Board members also wanted to know why some districts stop using the framework. They also wanted to be sure the teachers affected by the program were interested in it. And, board members wanted to see five-year forecast predictions of how using Literacy Collaborative would affect district finances.

Hissong said if the board wants to begin using the program, he would need a decision by end of March or early April to begin the process of selecting the coaches and getting them enrolled in the program.

By Casey S. Elliott

celliott@civitasmedia.com

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.