Reading and Writing Top Priority as Schools Emphasize Literacy Skills

Considering the challenges of the past academic year, the Bedford Public Schools’ three-year literacy plan has begun in good shape.

That’s the assessment of Assistant Superintendent of Schools Tricia Clifford, who told the School Committee last week, “We were able to move forward during a pandemic with all hands on deck. I’m really excited and happy with all of the work folks have done.”

Clifford, who oversees execution of the plan by faculty and staff, outlined progress toward aligning the literacy goals.

She cited the value of both a reading and a writing class in sixth grade; the decision was driven by assessment data. “This was a grass-roots approach by the sixth-grade team,” she said, which asked, “What if we doubled the amount of English language arts time?” She noted that there are three literacy specialists at John Glenn Middle School.

The curriculum materials and professional development opportunities were accessible during the 2020-21 year, Clifford continued. “We extended phonics work to upper elementary grades and writing to lower elementary. She also spoke of the goal of providing tiered intervention. “We really need to address some of the acute needs in decoding, fluency, and comprehension.”

“Every other month, I meet with the literacy committee,” comprising two teachers from each school,” Clifford said. “That keeps things alive and informs me how I can help support what’s happening.”

The literacy plan needs to be incorporated into district goals and each school’s annual improvement plan, Clifford pointed out. “At central office we also make sure part of my work is overseeing the plan programmatically and funding-wise. We are making sure things are supported.”

There are literacy components in summer school curricula, Clifford said, as well as differentiation workshops scheduled for at least 30 teachers at the end of June.

Clifford said she is working with the professional development organization Research for Better Teaching “to help them work on creating a small-group-approach workshop model in the fall.”

She is also devising how and when to share literacy assessments with parents, which is one of the goals of the plan. “How can we take the data we have and use it to inform instruction but also for student support teams, and to share with families?”

Another goal is tied to the curriculum, she said, “units of study for reading and writing, how can we leverage co-teaching so it is more integral to classroom instruction. For example, in sixth grade the special-education teachers are creating lessons working with groups.”

Clifford also referenced goals of internal and external professional development and evaluation.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763