(Posted Sept. 17, 2017)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Hooked on Phonics worked for millions of students decades ago, but for Jefferson Local Schools’ elementary students of today, learning phonics involves a different approach.
According to Andrea Buescher, elementary curriculum director, data from 2016-2017 indicated that students were struggling with awareness and skills in phonics. To address deficiencies, Norwood Elementary is moving in a new direction with Wilson Language Basics’ phonics Fundation Program.
“Norwood needs all students to have a systematic approach so student skills become more automatic when they’re reading and writing,” said Buescher at the Sept. 11 school board meeting.
Norwood administrators and staff members visited schools experiencing high performances in phonics education.
“The Fundation program had the most support research to support students,” Buescher said.
Implementing Fundation will support student learning, increase foundation skills, help students understand how words work and provide a new approach in developing handwriting skills.
General education students in kindergarten through third grade receive 30 minutes in phonics training every day and intervention on an as-needed basis. Title 1 instructors provide additional support for fourth-graders who are still struggling with phonics skills.
Norwood teachers received a full day of training in the Fundations program earlier this year, and a Fundations coach will visit the school four times this school year to provide support. In addition, grade level discussions are planned.
Evaluating the success of the program involves classroom assessment of student progress following each phonics unit. Baseline data was established and additional rounds of data collection will be conducted in January and toward the end of the year.
Superintendent William Mullett said he is very excited about the use of Fundation and, since the program incorporates handwriting, the district will be ahead of the curve as the state legislature considers adding a handwriting requirement to the education framework.
“This is what we’re looking for,” said board member Jerry Doran. “I think the structure provides consistency across grade levels.”