Closing Gaps with Year-End Data

by | Jun 4, 2024


As the school year comes to a close, K-3 teachers face the critical task of administering benchmark assessments like Acadience to evaluate the literacy skills students have mastered. These assessments provide valuable insights into students’ proficiency, but they also reveal the challenges ahead for those who score below or well below benchmark. Given the limited time left in the school year, addressing these students’ needs before the summer break is essential. For those who do not attend summer school, the risk of regression is significant, making it crucial to implement a strategic approach to narrow and close the achievement gap.

Assessing Students at the Start of the New School Year

To effectively support struggling readers, teachers should assess students during the first week of school using the Core Phonics Survey. This assessment identifies the discrete skills students have not mastered, which are barriers to accessing grade-level content. Analyzing the results of the Core Phonics Survey will help teachers prioritize which skills to address first in small group instruction. If available, intensive tutoring support can further benefit these students.

Implementing Response to Intervention (RTI)

For students who continue to struggle with reading, implementing a Response to Intervention (RTI) framework is crucial. RTI helps determine the types of intervention support needed to accelerate learning. Close monitoring ensures that students are responding to instruction and intervention support effectively.

Structuring Core Instruction with Differentiation

To support struggling readers, English Language Learners (ELLs), Multilingual Learners (MLLs), and students with special needs, core instruction should be differentiated. Here’s how teachers can structure their instruction:

Whole Group Instruction:

    • Use grade-level standards-based instruction.
    • Incorporate visual aids, graphic organizers, and interactive activities.
    • Provide clear and concise instructions, using scaffolding techniques to support comprehension.

Small Group Instruction:

      • Group students based on similar needs identified from the Core Phonics Survey.
      • Focus on specific skills, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
      • Use multi-sensory approaches and manipulatives to enhance learning.
      • Incorporate repeated practice and immediate feedback.

Frequency of Instruction:

        • Small group or individual instruction should occur daily, with sessions lasting 20-30 minutes.
        • Adjust the frequency based on students’ progress and needs.

Determining Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention Support

  • Tier 2 (Small Group Intervention):
    • For students who need additional support beyond core instruction.
    • Small group sessions focus on targeted skills and provide more intensive practice.
  • Tier 3 (Individual Intervention):
    • For students who show minimal progress in Tier 2.
    • Individualized instruction tailored to specific needs, with more frequent and intensive sessions.

The Science of Reading and Structured Literacy

The science of reading emphasizes a structured approach to literacy, which includes explicit, systematic instruction in the following areas:

  • Phonological Awareness: Activities that involve segmenting and blending sounds.
  • Phonics: Direct instruction on letter-sound relationships and decoding strategies.
  • Fluency: Practice with reading passages to improve speed, accuracy, and expression.
  • Vocabulary: Teaching word meanings, usage, and strategies for understanding new words.
  • Comprehension: Strategies for understanding and interpreting text.

Intervention Strategies for Small Group Instruction

  • Decodable Texts: Use texts that align with students’ phonics skills to build confidence and fluency.
  • Guided Reading: Provide leveled texts and scaffolded support to develop reading strategies.
  • Word Work: Engage students in activities that reinforce phonics patterns and sight words.
  • Interactive Read-Alouds: Model fluent reading and discuss text to build comprehension and vocabulary.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Instruction

Teachers should progress monitor every 2-4 weeks using brief, skill-specific assessments. If a student is not responding to interventions, consider the following steps:

  • Review and adjust the intervention plan.
  • Increase the intensity or frequency of interventions.
  • Consult with colleagues or specialists for additional strategies and support.

Engaging Parents to Support Learning at Home

Parental involvement is key to reinforcing skills learned at school. Here are ways to engage parents:

  • Communication: Share progress and provide specific strategies for home practice.
  • Home Activities: Suggest simple, fun activities that align with classroom instruction, such as reading together, playing phonics games, or practicing sight words.
  • Homework Assignments: Assign manageable tasks that reinforce skills, such as phonics worksheets, reading logs, or vocabulary exercises.

Implementing these strategies ensures that teachers provide the necessary support for students to overcome literacy challenges and thrive in the upcoming school year. With targeted instruction, continuous monitoring, and active parent engagement, we can narrow and close the achievement gap, setting students on a path to academic success.