Update from the Superintendent - February 1, 2024

This is the first in a multi-part series around the Science of Reading, an approach being adopted by MSAD 51. This series will run intermittently over the next several weeks.

In 2000, the National Reading Panel published a landmark report based on longitudinal research suggesting that children learn to read most effectively when there is a balance of phonics and whole language in classrooms. Over the last two decades, this report has spurred a flurry of deeper research into the critical components of teaching reading in ways that ensure every student is able to grasp this skill by the end of grade 2.

Today, we know much more about how the human brain processes the complex pieces that develop competent readers. As part of the current Strategic Plan, a year-long audit of our district's literacy practices was conducted in 2018-19 by a PK-12 work group facilitated by an external expert in the field of literacy education. This audit revealed gaps in the ways we were teaching reading and helping students comprehend what they read as they get older.

To put it simply, we returned to the time-tested knowledge that the primary years (grades PK-2) should be largely spent learning to read, while grades 3 and up are largely focused on reading to learn. This growing body of research is referred to as the Science of Reading. It is not a 'program' but an approach that helps students deconstruct reading in ways that best set them up for success by using research-based instructional methodology. In the next segment, I will go into more depth about the Science of Reading.

On February 5, the Board of Directors will hear two pivotal presentations: A proposed on-campus PK-1 school concept design as developed by architect Steve Blatt and a newly revised version of the Equity Plan. The rollout of the school concept design begins a 6-week review by the Board as to whether or not to accept this plan, return to the design developed for 80 Gray Road in North Yarmouth, or go in another direction, with a decision expected on March 18. Depending on the outcome of this vote, a public informational process and potential referendum date will be set. The second presentation is an updated version of the Equity Plan, a requirement of Policy ACA, as drafted by the Equity Steering Committee for the Board's consideration. An initial version of the plan was shared with the Board last June, but revisions have subsequently been made, with the Board scheduled to vote on this item March 4.