M.C. Schools Collaborate with EOU to Improve Reading in Early Learners

The Morrow County School District is partnering with Eastern Oregon University to develop a program to enhance reading skills among young students. (Photo courtesy of Morrow County School District)

The Morrow County School District (MCSD) and Eastern Oregon University (EOU) have partnered to address reading deficits and enhance reading proficiency in kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

At the end of May, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced the establishment of the Early Literacy Educator Preparation Council to enhance educator training for the Early Literacy Framework to improve student outcomes.

“Shockingly, not all teachers that come out of teacher preparation programs have this background, and we want to be sure that our teachers are all equipped with the knowledge and skills to support our young readers in Morrow County,” said Erin Stocker, MCSD Executive Director of Elementary Education and Human Resources. According to a recent ODE press release, the science of reading refers to decades of cognitive and neuroscience research showing how the brain learns to read and write, along with data about the most effective methods for facilitating literacy learning.  

Based on previous successes, including the MCSD, EOU, and Ignite Reading partnership, Stocker contacted Dr. Ronda Fritz, an associate professor of education at EOU, to address early literacy learning strategies for educators. Fritz specializes in elementary education and early literacy instruction. Under Stocker’s leadership, MCSD’s elementary leaders devised a professional development plan. The aim is to provide training to all MCSD kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers, leveraging the district’s annual in-service schedule. Training sessions will begin in August, followed by sessions held four times over nine months. During the 2023-24 school year, Fritz will also model teaching in classrooms, observe teachers, and provide valuable feedback. 

Deciding to train teachers through sixth grade was an outcome of MCSD data reviewed by Dr. Rachel Herron, the K-8 assessment & data coach for the school district.

“Our reading scores had become fairly stagnant over the past several years,” Herron said. “Last year we adopted a reading program based on the science of reading. Our preliminary year-end data showed a 21% increase in yearly reading growth in grades K-6 compared to last year. We are optimistic that we will continue to see a steady increase in academic achievement for all our students.”   

Fritz praised the district’s efforts to improve instruction.

“It is refreshing to see MCSD’s commitment to improving literacy instruction for their students,” said Fritz. “Comprehensive professional development for educators results in better outcomes for kids.”

The leadership team will meet in May 2024 to plan for sustaining ongoing literacy instruction for the 2024-2025 school year.

“It’s going to be exciting to see the outcome of this coordinated effort a year from now and beyond,” said Fritz.


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