Update from the Superintendent - February 29, 2024

Before the break, I began a multi-part series around the Science of Reading, an approach being adopted by MSAD 51. This is the second of a four-part series on this topic.
During the first segment, I noted the recent research on literacy acquisition, also known as the Science of Reading, 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. Being able to read fluently, i.e. at a comfortable pace with precision, is the goal of early readers. Reading proficiency is based on both the ability to decode (convert written words into speech) and comprehension (being able to understand what is decoded).

One of the main tenets of the Science of Reading is something known as the 'Reading Rope' developed by Dr. Hollis Scarborough. The premise behind this research is that the process of reading is not effective when isolated skills work independently of each other. Rather, reading must be an interwoven mix of strands that work together to help students master the process of reading. Dr. Scarborough found that when word recognition is integrated with language comprehension, reading fluency and comprehension strengthen. Word recognition emphasizes syllables and phonemes (phonological awareness), letter-sound correspondence (decoding), and sight recognition of familiar words. By grade 3, it is important for students to "anchor" 10-15 new words each day into their sight word memories so that they can recognize these words without relying on decoding.

The point behind word recognition is that early reading becomes increasingly automatic in nature. Though word recognition and comprehension skills work cooperatively, if a student is struggling with phonological awareness (parts of words) then this will slow down the ability to decode, recognize whole words, and ultimately to make meaning of these words. Next segment: Deeper dive into language comprehension.

Also, on Monday evening I will be presenting my recommended budget for the 2024-25 school year, to the Board of Directors, initiating the public budget process that continues through the budget referendum on June 11. Many thanks to the 2,425 respondents to the 2024 stakeholder surveys that were sent out in January to all parents/guardians, staff, and students in grades 3-12, representing about 45% of all stakeholders in these groups. A summary report of this year's survey results, along with comparative data from 2023, will be presented at Monday's Board meeting and shared in next week's newsletter.