Thursday, September 6, 2007

Initial Literacy Meeting

Literacy Meeting
Brandt School
Sept 6, 2007 9am-11:30AM

Reading is an active skill-based process of constructing meaning and/or gaining knowledge from oral, visual, and written text (including Braille). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Effective readers activate prior knowledge (schemata theory), use comprehension, decoding skills (using morpheme, semantics, and syntax cues), and demonstrate fluency during reading. Other types of reading may not be text-based, such as music notation or pictograms. By analogy, in computer science, reading is acquiring of data from some sort of computer storage.

The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society."

A number of issues came up during the meeting. Included was:

- The need for a District Level Literacy Team. This might include a Reading Supervisor and or a Curriculum Supervisor. The apparent need for such a position(s) seems to arise from a perception that there is not a way or effectively coordinating the full scope of activities related to implementing Reading/Literacy at the district level. That is exactly the point we had hoped to convey.

- The Reading First grant supplies mostly funds to purchase materials for use in K-3 setting. Some of the funds are used for salary but it seems as if a majority of the funds go toward materials. We would add professional development materials and activities.

- A reoccurring theme throughout the meet was the relative lack of room/space for one of the important components of the grant, The Parent/Teacher Reading First Resource Room. It seems as if in some schools this is regulated to a closet. Clearly, there appears to be a lack of professional level space. This also compromises the possibility of effective interaction with the public including parents and the community at large. To address the lack of space there was discussion as to whether the Parent/Teacher Reading First Resource Room should be at each school or a central district level facility. No clear consensus seemed to emerge from the conversation. The discussion continued later on in the meeting and the idea of a central location was dismissed. It is more likely that parents will respond favorably to outreach from the schools their children attend. The coaches will incorporate parent outreach activities into their schedules and will notify parents of times when they may visit the Resource Center for discussions and/or borrowing materials to work with at home. Perhaps when the building administrators see the program in action they will be more open to developing more appropriate space for that component of the program.

- A discussion on community involvement included the present participation of Wiley in a volunteer reading program at Hoboken area schools and the possibility (not realized at this time) of including local book stores like Barnes and Noble (Superintendent’s Reading List? Participation in a reading program?) The key point here is the need to reach out to the full community (business, academic, social, etc…) and not simply the parental community. Again, we are in agreement. This is an example of the kind of activity that a District Literacy Team might develop. It goes beyond the Reading First K-3 component – but is certainly something in which Reading First should and wants to participate.

- There seems to be a need for a central testing/data center. The grant requires a great deal of data collection, synthesis, analysis, reporting, etc… Without ease of access to electronic data, it appears there is the potential for a great amount of wasted staff capital. My sense is that this is a district wide issue but with so many reporting requirements for this grant (quarterly, bi-annually, annually), the impact is really felt strongly. Yes, on all points- particularly the “wasted staff capital”. We might point out that the demand for data and data analysis is not exclusive to Reading First. It is also needed for NCLB, and the other grants programs the district supports. In addition, each school could benefit from the data analysis in developing its overarching literacy program.

-The Reading First initiative provided an organizational format, an instructional design, and an assessment schema for a segment of the elementary population in the district when the only other Language Arts Literacy resource available to staff and students were the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJ CCCS).