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June 22, 2011

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."

May 17, 2011

McKnight Foundation funds literacy plan for CEHD partner school district

The McKnight Foundation has announced funding for a preK-3 reading initiative in collaboration with CEHD and the Brooklyn Center Independent School District #286. Part of a larger effort to improve early literacy, the McKnight funding will include an initial $150,000 grant to develop comprehensive strategies, with additional funding possible after the first year for implementation.

Earle Brown.jpg
The college's strong relationship with the district's Earle Brown Elementary School has become a model for success and shows the positive effects of support from literacy faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction's elementary education program. "For six years, the district has partnered with the University of Minnesota to introduce the concept of a continuum that includes reading strategies, skills, and assessment tools within an elementary literacy framework," according to the McKnight announcement. Initial licensure candidates from the college have taken literacy education courses at Earle Brown.

More recently, CEHD's Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) has strengthened the bond with Earle Brown even more, said partnership coordinator Stacy Ernst. "The deepening relationship is an example of how the redesign of the way we 'do' partnerships helps all involved--districts, centers, programs--deepen, focus, and fund the work," she said. "The college's Educator Development and Research Center (EDRC) is working across college departments and centers to advocate for our school partners and university faculty, match interests/research needs, and coordinate new connections within the TERI Partner Network."

The McKnight early literacy planning grant involves several college centers: the Minnesota Center for Reading Research (MCRR), the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), and EDRC. Through the TERI partnership, Earle Brown will benefit from CEHD's co-teaching teacher candidates from elementary education for year-long clinical experiences beginning in August 2011. The McKnight funding will enhance the college/district partnership, according to Brooklyn Center superintendent Keith Lester. "Reading is a gateway to lifelong learning, and all students deserve to be guided through it," he said. "The McKnight partnership will allow Earle Brown to fully coordinate the efforts of our dedicated teachers toward closing the achievement gap and moving each of our children toward this goal." MCRR and CEED will collaborate to help Brooklyn Center staff as they develop a plan for expanding their literacy framework to encompass a comprehensive Pre-K through third grade literacy continuum.

The McKnight funding is also being extended to Minneapolis Public Schools, which is another TERI partner and recently announced a Target corporation grant to support a research-based literacy initiative with MCRR aimed at preparing all Minneapolis students to read by the third grade.

May 2, 2011

Faculty research undergirds new Minneapolis/Target literacy program

Matthew BurnsUniversity of Minnesota Center for Reading Research (MCRR) Co-Directors Lori Helman and Matthew Burns and Educational Psychology Professor Jennifer McComas have developed the comprehensive Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites (PRESS) that will be implemented in Minneapolis Public Schools. Aimed at preparing all Minneapolis students to read by the third grade, PRESS is based on a research-based approach to literacy. The district announced its partnership with Target Foundation, which is donating $6 million to district literacy programs over the next three years, in a press conference May 2.

Lori Helman Helman, Burns, and McComas, in partnership with The Minnesota Reading Corps, helped develop data-driven instructional strategies and interventions for students of all skill levels in grades K through 3 to assure each student receives needed teaching and interventions. This includes expanded support for English Language Learners. The partners have also established a professional development program to support literacy teachers as they make this systemic change.

Jennifer McComasThrough the ongoing partnership with The Minnesota Reading Corps, MCRR faculty and graduate students will provide ongoing coaching and support over the next three years of PRESS. University researchers will also investigate the effectiveness of these strategies to influence literacy objectives nationwide.

Target will fund the expansion of one to three additional tutors in all Minneapolis K-3 schools. Through a competitive application process, other select schools will receive intensive PRESS intervention strategies. These schools will be announced at a later date.

Read the Minneapolis Public Schools' official announcement.

February 11, 2011

Schools honored for reading achievements by Minnesota Center for Reading Research

Sixty-two Minnesota elementary schools were honored recently for their achievement in reading by the Minnesota Center for Reading Research with a presentation and ceremony at the University of Minnesota. Schools chosen for the honor are those elementary schools that made adequate yearly progress in reading during school years 2008-09 and 2009-10 after failing to make adequate yearly progress in the previous year. See the list of schools honored.