While working in small groups, University Meadows Elementary literacy facilitator Jeanette Viladrosa recalled two students – a fourth- and a fifth-grader - who had gaps in phonemic awareness, the ability to get individual sounds in words by listening and identifying those words orally. It is a skill usually learned in earlier grades.
Having attended Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training, Viladrosa was able to identify that gap, help them move from phonemic awareness to phonics and see the students become proud of themselves.
"Seeing them go from a nonreader to a reader has been incredible," she said.
In 2019, the percentage of fourth-grade public school students in North Carolina performing at or above the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Proficient level in reading was 36%, according to the NAEP website.
To combat this literacy deficiency, LETRS – professional learning for pre-K-5 teachers – was implemented.
LETRS provides educators with deep knowledge to be literacy and language experts. Teachers learn the skills needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction – phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and language.
"We know that LETRS is effective because of the science and evidence-based research behind it," said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt. "It is through the LETRS approach that students will begin to fully grasp the concept of literacy, and that's because rather than training teachers on yet another program, it focuses on educating and equipping educators.
"LETRS explicitly shows teachers how to connect research to practice as it relates to everyday classroom experiences," Truitt continued. "LETRS not only inform educators on what students must be taught in order to read, but how they should be taught."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is committed to delivering on the promise of education and equipping every child with the ability to read and write well. Through LETRS, teachers develop a common language and understanding of evidence-based reading practice that promotes effective and consistent literacy instruction across school, district and state levels.
"I greatly appreciate LETRS because it gives a great foundation that we can all go back to because we all come from such a wide range of backgrounds," said K-2 academic facilitator Dana Williams at Devonshire Elementary. "It's been great to say, 'remember in Unit 3 and remember in Unit 2.' We can all have that background knowledge that we are all coming together, and I think that's a big thing to celebrate."
Kennisha Moten, a pre-K teacher at McAlpine Elementary, has also noticed the impact LETRS training has had on her daily instruction.
"It's made every teaching moment intentional," she said. "The trainings have taught me various strategies to improve my students' knowledge on literacy. Their awareness of rhyming words, syllable counts and word count in sentences has also increased."
Next year, Moten believes her students will benefit the entire school year from the strategies LETRS has provided because she will have the resources at the beginning of the school year, a sentiment Laureen Cohen, pre-K teacher at Huntingtowne Farms Elementary, shares.
"I've learned developmentally appropriate practices for the beginning, middle and end of the school year related to phonemic awareness and instruction," she said. "I've been able to reflect on the process I use for teaching the alphabet and plan for next year."