Starting Early: Early Childhood Literacy Program
By: Vanessa Grant
Neuhaus Education Center’s Pre-Kindergarten Initiative embarked on a partnership with the Houston Independent School District during the 2013-2014 school year. The project’s 184 participating teachers received weekly or monthly coaching; five days of workshop-style training in how to implement the Language and Literacy Units for Young Learners in whole and small groups; and an additional day of professional development for the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten teachers to collaborate on vertical mapping, curriculum planning, and assessment data.
In the fall, Neuhaus’ Literacy Coaches administered the first round of the Early Literacy Quick Assessment (ELQA) to approximately 1,200 students whose parents gave consent to participate in the project. These data gave teachers valuable information about their preschoolers’ beginning knowledge base. Once data were collected, coaches and teachers began working together to implement the Language and Literacy units, as they utilized the four coaching techniques of Observation, Demonstration, Shadow, and Side-by-Side. Throughout the rest of the school year, the ELQA continued to provide valuable information about foundational pre-literacy skills for tiered instruction and data-driven decision-making. Our literacy coaches were able to assist teachers in using ELQA data to adjust their small groups as students’ performance changed. Teachers were eyewitnesses to their students’ growth as coaches encouraged them to use ELQA to make positive changes in instruction.
Although there is a consensus among many of our teachers regarding the work that still needs to be done to improve the language and literacy skills of our at-risk preschoolers, several have shared success stories. Crystal Bright from Lockhart Elementary School shared: “Neuhaus has really built my confidence as a teacher. I’ve always felt like I had the reading fundamentals to be able to teach a student. But, the building blocks of exactly how to teach it, and when to teach it, what type of student to teach it to . . . afterwards, I just feel so confident in the fact that I have built a better reader.” Felicia Adams, Lockhart Elementary School’s principal, added to Bright’s enthusiasm: “Teachers sometimes need programs that teach them, show them, coach them, and model for them, and it [Neuhaus] has all of those components in order for a teacher to be a successful reading teacher.”