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Literacy researchers create innovative program for Mpls. Public Schools

Jennifer McComasSix Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) have been selected as locations for Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites (PRESS), a comprehensive approach to early literacy developed by Minnesota Center for Reading Research co-directors Lori Helman and Matthew Burns and educational psychology professor Jennifer McComas. The Target Foundation is donating $6 million to fund PRESS and other district literacy programs over the next three years. The selected schools are Marcy Open School, Anishinabe Academy, Anne Sullivan Communication Center, Pillsbury Elementary, Harvest Preparatory School and Best Academy.

Aimed at preparing all Minneapolis students to read by the third grade, PRESS expands upon research-based strategies developed via the Minnesota Reading First model, which improved student vocabulary, comprehension, word recognition, and fluency. Helman, Burns, and McComas, in partnership with The Minnesota Reading Corps, helped develop instructional strategies for students of all skill levels in kindergarten through third grade, including expanded support for English Language Learners.

Lori Helman"PRESS integrates the research on what is essential for student success in reading, the instructional practices that help learners advance, and the school-wide structures that ensure a continuous focus on data," said Helman, associate professor in curriculum and instruction. "There is evidence that each of these areas is critical to improved outcomes in student performance."

Through PRESS, the selected schools will benefit from four key elements:
• A focus on quality core instruction with a schedule that allows a literacy block of 90 minutes for instruction plus 30 additional minutes for supplemental intervention or enrichment in literacy;
• Professional development that allows teachers to continuously improve and share their learning as well as monitor the progress of each student;
• A systematic process for data collection and prescriptive data analyses; and
• Tiered interventions and support for students who are not making adequate progress toward reading proficiency.
Matthew Burns
"What makes PRESS unique is: A, the melding of different research-based components, the likes of which has not been done before, and B, the addressing of core principles and practices, rather than implementing of programs," said Burns, professor in educational psychology.

Through an ongoing partnership that includes the Minnesota Reading Corps, University faculty and graduate students will provide coaching and support over the next three years.

Helman explains that the long-term goals of the project extend far beyond the initial six sites. "We will learn a lot in our collaboration with the individual school sites, the MPS district and the charter school leadership teams. PRESS project leaders will document our challenges and solutions as we engage together to meet our goals. Based on the work in Minneapolis, we hope to extend the model to other schools across the country in years to come."

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