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November 17, 2023

Literacy experts will evaluate reading instruction in every Maryland school district

Originally published on The Baltimore Banner

Elementary teachers in Maryland can expect a visit from the state next year to make sure they are teaching reading the right way.

The Maryland Accountability and Implementation Board, the group overseeing implementation of landmark education legislation, and the Maryland State Board of Education approved a plan to have experts evaluate elementary literacy instruction in all 24 districts. The review will start in early 2024 and finish by the end of the school year.

The Baltimore Banner reported last month that Maryland schools have taught reading the wrong way for decades. Most school systems have begun shifting their instruction to align with the science of reading, a method that’s supported by research and focuses on strong phonics instruction, vocabulary and comprehension. Maryland ranks 40th in fourth grade reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“This effort to improve early literacy instruction will improve the learning experiences of Maryland’s youngest students and prepare them for success at every step in their learning journey,” Clarence C. Crawford, president of the state board, said in a Thursday press release.

Literacy experts working in groups of two will observe classroom instruction. They’ll evaluate whether the instruction is equivalent with the science of reading and implemented consistently across school districts. They’ll also make sure high-quality literacy instruction is available for every student and that school districts offer “high-quality literacy training” to teachers.

“The experts will collaborate with district leaders, principals, and teachers to create strategies to improve their literacy plans,” the news release states. “They also will provide recommendations to improve literacy instruction and student outcomes to districts, MSDE, and AIB.”

The news comes shortly after Carey Wright took over the Maryland State Department of Education as the interim superintendent of schools. She was head of Mississippi’s public schools as the state made significant improvements in both reading and math. The Southern state credited the science of reading with its reading scores rising above the national average.

“Literacy is the foundation for all learning. The power of strong literacy practices yields an impact across core academic subject areas,” Wright said in a statement. “Expert reviewers will help to ensure consistency within schools and districts, from classroom instruction to teacher training, firmly grounded in the Science of Reading.”

Reading Partners Baltimore, a nonprofit that provides literacy tutoring, said having literacy experts in school is a step in the right direction.

“Today’s decision to provide every school district in Maryland with literacy experts who will support the continuous improvement of reading instruction is a significant step toward providing students with the opportunities to succeed in school today and in the future,” Zenobia Judd-Williams, the organization’s executive director, said in a news release. “Children will love reading when they are empowered and when they have been taught in a structured way that explicitly teaches the breadth of literacy skills needed to engage with and comprehend books they love.”

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