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Statewide Literacy Briefs Emphasize the "Science of Reading"

Earlier this month, Head of School, Michelle Healy and Assistant Head of School, Keri Zurlini joined educators from across Ulster County to explore seven new “Science of Reading Literacy Briefs” issued by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The convening was hosted by NYSED in collaboration with Ulster BOCES as part of statewide efforts to improve reading proficiency in New York. In her 2024 State of the State address, Governor Hochul shared that she has proposed legislation aimed to ensure that evidence-based best practices are used to teach reading throughout the state.

Under the umbrella of “The Science of Reading”, the seven briefs address teaching the “big six” components of reading – oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension – at different developmental stages. Attendees were led in exploration of the briefs by co-writers, Dr. Nonie K. Lesaux, Professor of Education and Human Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Katie C. Carr, M.Ed.

“Dr. Lesaux unpacked them with the group and [Michelle and I] left feeling affirmed in the work we’re doing and ready to keep pushing the work forward,” Keri says.

Michelle was reassured, as well, that the new guidance supports High Meadow’s multifaceted approach to reading instruction. “We’re doing all the things,” she says. “It’s not a binary: phonics or whole language. In fact, science says we need all of these approaches to reach all of the learners.”

Both Michelle and Keri appreciate the way the new briefs offer “High Impact Instruction Practices” that support literacy, for example “purposeful play,” an “inclusive curriculum and assessments,” “high expectations,” and “strong community and family engagement,” among others. These enabling structures and processes acknowledge that reading is embedded in a larger culture of learning, drawing on a wide range of both cognitive and physical skills.

“We focus a lot on words on the page, but literacy is so much more,” Michelle adds. “Literacy is how you interpret the entire world.”

Next, Keri will develop a similar immersion experience for our teachers to explore the Science of Reading briefs that are relevant to their students. We’ll also be watching for information about further resources available to High Meadow as part of Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul's proposed Back to Basics initiative.

Want to know more about the 2024 NYSED Science of Reading Literacy Briefs? Use the button below to access all briefs, as well as Dr. Lesaux's presentation slides.

Did you know? Assistant Head of School, Keri Zurlini — herself a literacy specialist — developed High Meadow's robust literacy assessment program. Teachers have access to a K-8 Benchmark Assessment Calendar for the year, which lays out the timing and materials needed. High Meadow's assessments are generally delivered one-on-one, teacher-to-student, rather than in a standardized testing format, for example. The makes assessment a more connected activity for students, and also provides richer data for teachers.


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