The path to improved literacy requires data-literate educators.
Literacy is the cornerstone of education, and a key to thriving in adulthood. True literacy means not just knowing how to decode printed language, but also being able to write, speak, and communicate across a wide range of media.
Students who achieve high levels of literacy experience higher levels of employment, social integration, and overall health. Conversely, students with poor literacy skills grow up struggling to find jobs, are more likely to be incarcerated, and have a shorter life expectancy. In communities where low literacy is endemic, the downward spiral can be difficult to reverse.
Georgia’s Leaders Are Well Aware of the Stakes
In Georgia, 1.7 million adults have a low level of literacy, yet 88% of all jobs in the state require at least a high school diploma. Close to a million Georgia residents do not qualify for these well-paying jobs.
In 2013, education leaders renewed their commitment to helping children master literacy. At that time, 65% of Georgia’s third graders were not reading at grade level. Third grade marks a critical shift in literacy, where learning to read ideally gives way to reading to learn.
Children who are not reading by third grade are four times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school. In school, they are also more likely to experience poor health and discipline problems that follow them into adulthood.
Georgia Is Addressing the Issue in a Big Way
The Georgia Department of Education spearheaded the Get Georgia Reading Campaign in 2013. An outgrowth of this campaign was the development of a common agenda to put all Georgia students on a path to reading proficiency by the end of 2020.
The campaign’s participants, including more than 100 state and community leaders, determined that any drive to improve literacy must rest on four pillars:
1. Language Nutrition: Abundant, language-rich, adult-child interactions.
2. Access to Success: High-quality early childhood and elementary education for all children.
3. Positive Learning Climate: Safe and supportive schools that facilitate student engagement.
4. Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness: Evidence-informed skills, knowledge, and resources to meet the literacy needs of each child from birth to age eight.
To accomplish their goals, campaign officials coalesced around an initiative dubbed Literacy of Learning, Leading, and Living (L4). This initiative, which brings together the state’s colleges and universities, its public schools, Regional Educational Service Centers, families, and community partners, focuses on the idea that literacy is just one facet in the complex process of child development, and that all facets must be addressed to create sustained improvement.
This common understanding led the L4 working groups to focus on five building blocks of literacy:
1. Professional Capacity: Once a literacy practice is adopted by a school system, teachers must be trained to use it.
2. Family and Community Partnerships: By partnering with families and communities, educators can address the social, emotional, and physical aspects of child development.
3. Effective Leadership: Leaders throughout the institutions that serve children must understand the critical importance of supporting literacy.
4. Coherent Instructional System: An effective curriculum supports student development, recognizes key transitional years, and implements both formative and summative instruction-based assessments.
5. Supportive Learning Environment: Students who need additional support should receive personalized interventions.
Making Big Ideas Work for Our Students
While the challenge facing Georgia’s educators is daunting, the forecast is encouraging. Recent assessments suggest that literacy is rising since the implementation of the L4 initiative, which won a massive $61.5 million, three-year literacy grant (from the U.S. Department of Education at the end of 2017.
Independently, business leaders, education experts, and other key stakeholders created the Georgia Literacy Commission to build awareness around the importance of literacy, and to make recommendations for improving low literacy across generations.
As Georgia’s district leaders move forward with a strong commitment and impressive funding, one of the biggest challenges will involve the use of data to ensure success. At Illuminate Education, we understand how data can lead to better student outcomes when best practices are followed, such as:
- Using formative assessments to identify struggling students and make real-time adjustments to instruction methods.
- Empowering educators to make data-driven decisions for their students, through ongoing training and the generation of relevant reports.
- Creating a culture that encourages data sharing.
Children can master literacy as long as educators and administers work on their own data literacy. With the ability to read, analyze, create, and communicate data as information, adults throughout a district will be more likely to keep academic performance on track, identify children who need social-emotional support, and help all teachers become even more effective in the classroom.
Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.
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