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Jan. 5, 2018

MSU scholars help lead statewide literacy project

Michigan State University researchers are providing leadership in a new statewide effort to improve literacy.

Tanya Wright helped write the preschool and K-3 Literacy Essentials outlining evidence-based teaching practices that should happen for “every child, in every classroom, every day” to increase proficiency in reading and writing.

Wright and fellow MSU College of Education scholar Laura Tortorelli also are assisting in the creation of free online training modules based on the essential practices that will be available to all educators.

The first modules for the K-3 essentials are now available; the remaining modules are expected to be released on a rolling basis starting in early 2018. The collaborative project is led by the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, with multiple partners and funding from the Michigan Department of Education.

"It's a special time in our state," said Wright, associate professor of teacher education. "We have many organizations, districts and universities all working together on a common goal and agreeing on a common set of instructional practices we'd like to see in every classroom."

Examples include supporting literacy motivation, doing read-alouds, instructing students in small groups to address their learning needs and collaborating with families.

"These are things we know from research that all kids need. Sometimes, not all of the essentials are happening in classrooms. Sometimes, they are happening, but not in ways that are well-aligned with the research," Wright said.

Wright and Tortorelli, along with Nell K. Duke of University of Michigan, are featured in some of the training videos to explain research behind key practices. They also designed the content in the modules and worked with Michigan Virtual and teachers across the state to produce classroom videos for each literacy essential.

MSU education faculty members Kristy Cooper Stein and Melissa Usiak are also contributing to the project. They helped draft the Literacy Essentials document focused on schoolwide or organizational practices to foster literacy.

Usiak and Cooper Stein shared the research with literacy coaches from across the state and have made presentations to Michigan school leaders as they prepare to support the necessary systemic changes.