Superintendent Johnson Announces Innovative New Elementary Reading Program for Boston Public Schools

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New curriculum supports research-based instruction, intervention, assessment, and teacher training designed to improve literacy skills among all students

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson today announced the adoption of a new reading program for Boston Public Schools students in kindergarten through grade 5. After a thorough review process, the district selected the research-based Scott Foresman Reading Street from Pearson. The program is designed to support students at all levels - including students who are on-level, struggling and at-risk learners, proficient and advanced readers, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

"We must be laser-focused on our efforts to ensure that every child in Boston has an equal opportunity to reach his or her full potential," said Dr. Johnson. "Reading is the foundation for all other learning, and our choice of this innovative and comprehensive reading program is a pivotal step in our work to put all children on the path to success in school and in life."

The new reading program uses a combination of the Reading Street program and its companion intervention for struggling readers, My Sidewalks, developed by the Boston-based education company Pearson. The program is supported by independent efficacy studies that show students in all socio-economic groups "significantly improved their reading achievement from 30-50%, often surpassing state requirements." Recent additional findings indicated "significant improvement for English language learners, enabling more than half of those in the study to enter mainstream classrooms within one year and be certified as 'Fluent English Proficient'."

The school district is investing a portion of its new federal stimulus funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) to purchase the instructional materials. Over the next several months, district officials will introduce the program to educators and parents and begin training teachers to use the materials. In addition to the elementary reading curriculum, Dr. Johnson and her team are exploring options for a citywide literacy curriculum for middle and high schools.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino applauded the investment in improving students' reading and writing skills. Mayor Menino has launched several City programs to strengthen student literacy, including ReadBoston for elementary students and WriteBoston for high school students.

"We have to ensure that our students are learning to read and write well to prepare them for college and career success," he said. "Superintendent Johnson and her team have made literacy a priority for every child in Boston. We are pleased to provide teachers and families with a powerful new set of tools to help all of our students achieve academic success."

Rev. Gregory G. Groover, Sr., Chair of the Boston School Committee, added, "We've seen steady progress district-wide in mathematics, thanks in part to a coherent, challenging math curriculum in all schools. The School Committee certainly supports Dr. Johnson in her efforts to generate similar results in reading and writing."

District officials conducted a comprehensive review of several reading programs before deciding that the components of the Pearson program best meet the needs of all of the city's elementary students. Superintendent Johnson emphasized that educators who reviewed various options cited the Pearson program as having particularly strong components for supporting students who are English Language Learners and students with disabilities. She noted that classroom resources for the program also include state-of-the-art digital content.

Dr. Johnson's Acceleration Agenda establishes ambitious academic goals and targets through 2012, including: 80% of first graders reading at or above grade level; all third graders passing the MCAS Reading test, with 85% scoring Proficient or Advanced; all English language learners acquiring academic language mastery and fluency; and fifth and seventh graders demonstrating skillful, analytical writing.

Superintendent Johnson added that having a single research-based curriculum in all Boston public elementary schools is particularly important given high mobility rates among Boston families.

"So many of our students move from one school to another with the district," she said. "With a single curriculum, we can ensure that students will stay on course with their classmates even if they change schools or neighborhoods."

Pearson's General Manager for Literacy, Doug McCollum, said, "Since Boston is home for so many of us at Pearson, we recognize the importance and potential for our unique partnership, and are committed to working with our wonderful teachers here to ensure success for all of our city's students. We are dedicating a team of professionals to work with principals to ensure a seamless and successful implementation of the new reading/language arts program." He added, "We will also provide intense training for teachers so that they will be knowledgeable and prepared to translate all of the robust components of this revolutionary reading program into individual learning for their students."

During the past school year, more than five million students in 10,000 schools and districts nationally were learning with the Reading Street program. In addition to Boston's students, school decisions across the country in the past few months will place the program in thousands of additional classrooms for the coming school year.

Dr. Johnson said, "We look forward to our partnership with Pearson -- a partnership that is truly focused on driving transformational change for literacy here in Boston. I am confident that together we are going to achieve our goal of providing every elementary student with the opportunity to master the reading, comprehension, and language arts skills that will be their foundation for success in middle school, high school and college."

Dr. Johnson added that she looks forward to expanding the school district's partnership with the Pearson Foundation to create innovative 21st century learning digital arts and literacy programs for students throughout the city.

For more information about the program, visit http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/literacy or http://www.pearsonschool.com/bps.

The Boston Public Schools serves more than 56,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 135 schools, and in 2006 won the Broad Prize for Urban Education as the top city school district in the country. For more information, visit http://www.bostonpublicschools.org.

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