A Year in Foundational Literacy – Episode 6 - KIPP Nashville

A Year in Foundational Literacy – Episode 6

What a year this has been! If you’ve been following along with our “A Year in Foundational Literacy” series, we are so excited to share a final update. When KIPP Nashville committed to changing how we teach literacy – by prioritizing read wording skills and aligning our curriculum with the science of reading – we set an ambitious three-year goal to measure success. In year two of our foundational literacy priority, our goal was that at least 75% of K-2 students would be at or above grade level in reading. We are proud to have reached that goal, with K-2 students moving from 44% on grade level at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, to 75% at the end of the year. We celebrate this achievement alongside all our students, families and teachers, who have put in the hard work this year to accomplish this huge milestone. We are excited to send our kindergarteners off to first grade with more literacy knowledge than ever before!

“I feel really proud of my students and their success,” says Ms. Tipton. “I know that we look at the data, but just a student to student, I’m proud of where they started day one and where they finished.”

Dr. Anita Gonzalez, KIPP Nashville’s Director of Elementary Humanities, says, “It’s monumental for a lot of reasons. It gives our teachers the confidence that they’ve been needing to say we did the plan, we worked so hard, and it actually worked. All their late nights, early mornings, coaching meetings, all their data analysis really set them up for success and now all our teachers who are returning will have a newfound confidence they didn’t have before, which is amazing.”

Mrs. Quach adds, “It’s clear the region had a plan in place. They weren’t just throwing up this number and saying ‘Let’s go tackle it.’ It’s awesome to see that this plan they created, worked through itself and brought what we wanted to see.”

“The region took a huge risk in letting go of some of the practices of instruction in which KIPP Nashville was engaging students in, basically prioritizing language and comprehension, and making the shift to prioritizing word reading skills for students,” explains Dr. Gonzalez. “It’s not that word reading skills weren’t happening, it’s just that we realized that it actually needed to be prioritized and be our number one thing that we do in classrooms every day.”

For Ms. Tipton, who herself was a struggling reader until her fourth grade teacher stepped in and helped her get back on track says, “With these students, I know they can read. I’m not worried that by the time they get to third grade they’re not going to have that skill. I know they have it in kindergarten. I’m grateful for that experience. I’m grateful KIPP has invested in the science of reading, and just trying it over and over again until we get it right.”

“Learning how to read, having the opportunity to read, and access to literacy is absolutely a social justice issue,” adds Dr. Gonzalez. “Historically, learning how to read has been taken away from groups of people, as well as not even having an opportunity, and we had the opportunity to do that, and we made huge gains from 44% to 75%, and what that means is our students are going to be literate and be able to make even more choices for themselves than they might not have had.”

Mr. Jones says, “As an educator, you feel like you can never do enough, because you just believe in these little kids so much and there’s so much you want to give them, it’s just time constraint. I feel good, I feel like I did my best and I gave them my best, and they’re doing to benefit from that.”

“We just think about the kids and their success and how much easier the next grade level is going to be for them coming with so much literacy knowledge, more literacy knowledge than our students have ever had in the past,” says Dr. Gonzalez.

The upcoming 2023-2024 school year brings exciting changes for our teachers!

Ms. Tipton is moving to second grade. Mr. Jones has been promoted to Lead Teacher with his own classroom down the hall from Mrs. Quach, and Mrs. Quach is the Grade Level Chair for the Kindergarten team at KIPP Kirkpatrick Elementary School.

Ms. Tipton says, “I feel like coming out of this year, we’ve made a tremendous amount of growth. We focused on those skills students need to be successful readers, but of course our work is not done.”

Mrs. Quach adds, “Now what? That’s the beauty of being in the education world. We’ll always have goals and never stop chasing something more.”

At the end of the 2023-2024 school year, Dr. Gonzalez says the new reading goal for K-2 students is that at least 90 percent will be at or above benchmark.

Dr. Gonzalez says, “No, it doesn’t stop! We have a lot of work to do before kids walk in the building in august, and it’s going to be a huge hill to climb from 75to 90 percent. It’s just one of those things that once you get good, it’s a lot of work to become great. We want to make sure everyone is set up for success so everyone can experience that 90 percent this time next year. I know we can do it.”

Watch all six episodes of our “A Year in Foundational Literacy” series on YouTube, and click below to check out the final episode.