The 2022-23 school year is underway and the Detroit Public Schools District (DPSCD) launched its multi-year District Literacy Plan to improve the reading and writing skills of thousands of K-12 students.
According to 2019 testing results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Detroit schools average score of 183 is lower than 26 other school districts in major cities, including Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, New York City and Philadelphia.
In 2019, the average reading score of fourth-grade students in Detroit was 183 which was lower than the average score of 212 for public school students in large cities.
As outlined, the Literacy Plan includes “instructional materials and frameworks, talent and professional development investments and initiatives to foster a culture of literacy; [it] is first and foremost grounded in the science of reading but takes a holistic view of literacy.”
On August 30, DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti proposed the Plan’s details and projected benefits at the DPSCD Curriculum/Academics Committee Meeting.
“We saw improvement in growth last year for K-8 and our proficiency numbers in the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP),” said Dr. Vitti. “Right now, we are 1 percent above instead of being where we were, at 1 percent below last year. We expect to see improvements in our proficiency rate based on our Literacy Plan.”
Each K-12 grade level block will be reorganized to include supplementary reading and writing focus lessons. Grades K-2 will have a scheduled 150 minutes of English Language Arts (ELA). Grades 3-8 will have 100 minutes of ELA, half the time spent in content-based literacy module lessons and the other half in small group instruction.
As for high school students, the plan states, “Unlike Grades K-8, which uses instructional minutes allocated in the school day, literacy learning in the high school space uses access to coursework to meet students’ needs.”
Ninth graders will be provided tutoring reading seminars, whereas 10th and 11th graders will be given SAT-preparation courses to meet the College and Career readiness State Benchmark.
The plan is divided into three-tiered components:
Tier One details the district’s current progress on improving literacy from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Tier Two outlines the teacher-led computer intervention program through i-Ready.
Tier Three is a multisensory intervention model for students that are at least two grades behind their peers. This process will be led by academic intervention and school partners.
The committee preparing the Literacy Plan also takes a more intentional approach toward identifying the lack of representation in the core texts students interact with across all grade levels.
The committee found, “Despite the success of adopting an aligned, rigorous curriculum, educators recognized that MyPerspectives did not provide both mirrors (works that reflect Detroit students’ lives and culture) and windows (works that provide into others’ experiences).
As a result, a novel selection committee was convened to help fill some of the gaps of cultural connections, relevancy and history. Eight novels were selected by this committee and paired with each of the units of grades 9- 12.”
Students will be exposed to more seminal works of fiction and non-fiction by Black authors, such as John Lewis and James Baldwin.
DPSCD School Board Chair Corletta J. Vaughn asked how the administration plans to stay accountable to executing the plan.
Dr. Vitti responded, saying, ““Every month at the board meeting, we talk about the baseline scores, and how many students are at or above grade levels. This happens three times a year; At the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and at the end of the year. Also, we do reviews on the level of implementation of the plan and see what the data shows.
“2021 and 2022 were about showing growth. 2022 and 2023 is a baseline year, and we are looking to see improvements at or above grade level improvement. This is where accountability comes in. The Board is welcome to come in and see our results. Also, remember i-Ready does predict outcomes from its data.”
At the high school level most of the neighborhood schools use Beyond Basics systems, a Southfield-based nonprofit organization working to eradicate illiteracy by “diagnostic assessment followed by one-on-one, phonics-based, multisensory tutoring that combines the Orton-Gillingham prescriptive approach with fine arts activities essential for building vocabulary and comprehension.”
DPSCD will set out to implement regular formative “cycle assessments” where teachers will gather data to ensure students are mastering target skills and adjust if any material needs to be reviewed.
Skill set mastery will include a grade-level based tool to assess accountable independent reading, phonemic awareness phonics, word work, vocabulary, language, writing, fluency and i-Ready individualized online learning path.