District Administration December2017 - 51

SPONSORED CASE STUDY

Open Court Reading from
McGraw-Hill Education helps
students in Tennessee catch up
in reading proficiency
Systematic reading program provides strong literacy foundation for elementary students

E

ducators in Bradley County Schools in Cleveland,
Tennessee, were faced with some staggering numbers:
48 percent of third-grade students were reading on
grade level. That meant five out of every 10 were not.
"We were above the state average of 43 percent," says Terri
Murray, supervisor of Federal Programs/Media Services for
the district where 10 of 11 K-5 schools are Title I. "But still, 48
was not good enough for us."
She and her district colleagues set a goal of 90 percent
of third-graders reading at grade level by 2021, and
investigated programs to help get them there. They chose
Open Court Reading from McGraw-Hill Education, which
had proven successful in a Washington State district they
had contacted. After one full year of using Open Court
Reading in all K-2 classrooms, Bradley County has seen gains
in those three grades, says Traci Blackburn, the district's ELA
coordinator of K-12 education. Third grade was added to the
district this year, and fourth and fifth grades are scheduled
to follow, to ultimately cover all 4,300 students in K-5.

"We had gains at all grade levels except for
third grade, which had not yet implemented
Open Court Reading as its core instruction."

Predictable patterns
"We chose Open Court because we needed consistency,"
Blackburn says. "When students go from one classroom to
another, they know the routines and procedures. And the
foundational skills and the rigor of the text have been key."
Systematic instruction routines are taught and modeled
using predictable patterns that students can identify and
remember. The K-5 reading, writing and language arts
curriculum includes differentiated instruction, English
language learner support, and an inquiry/higher-order
thinking strand and writing strand.
"Open Court starts with phonemic awareness and
foundational skills and then goes right into letter names and
letter sounds," Murray says.
"We're actually teaching kids spelling patterns and sound
spellings and how to spell different patterns of words," adds
Blackburn. "And they use them in their reading and writing.
The text is very challenging. The vocabulary is very challenging."
Following the first full year of implementation, the district
looked at the percentage of students at or above the 50th
percentile, the district's indicator of reading proficiency. "We
had gains at all grade levels except for third grade, which
had not yet implemented Open Court Reading as its core
instruction," Blackburn says.

Measurable gains
One example of gains can be seen in kindergarten, where, in
the fall of 2016, 64 percent of students were at or above the
50th percentile; in the spring, that number grew to 71 percent,
according to MAP, which is a nationally normed assessment.
RIT scores also showed growth, ranging from 15.5 points in
second grade to 23.9 points in kindergarten-exceeding
district expectations, Blackburn says.
"Trying to keep everyone on board was the biggest hurdle
last year," Blackburn says. "But once teachers saw the growth
we were getting-according to midyear data-they could
see the benefit of what we were doing."
The district also involved parents, community and the
state education commissioner, inviting them to a celebratory
program highlighting student leadership and introducing the
district's new reading goal, says Sheena Newman, supervisor
of elementary education and creator of
the district leadership program.
"One of the most important things
we do is teach our students to read,
because all other skills rest on this skill,"
Newman says.

For more information, visit www.mheonline.com/results
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration December2017

District Administration December2017 - Cover1
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