Improving reading skills: Governor visits BG school to see science of reading


The Conneaut Elementary reading specialist team wowed the governor Tuesday as staff displayed how they have increased student reading skills.

Gov. Mike DeWine visited the Bowling Green school to see the science of reading in action.

The district in 2019-20 started to use Fundations, which focuses on phonemic awareness and phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, but then shut down due to COVID, said Angela Schaal, executive director of teaching and learning.

She said that the reading skills of those students who used Fundations the first year “was really significant. They were outpacing the other kids.”

Now the program is being used districtwide in preschool to third grade.

Reading specialist Molly Leader shared the data that showed the increase in reading skills.

“It’s very impressive,” DeWine said.

Reading specialist Sara Lucid said that to roll the program out statewide, there needs to be high-quality professional development and decisions on who is the first to be trained.

“Eventually all of your teachers have the same knowledge and are using the same type of language,” she said.

Leader said that the staff is the key.

“Not only do you need the knowledge, you need the people in place,” she said.

Bowling Green City Schools has three reading specialists in each elementary, one at the middle school and one used by both the middle school and high school.

Tiers of intervention have been created by having more people, reading specialist Kaela Bilski said.

Students can either have small group intervention support or enrichment programs, she said.

Lucid said she has three to five students during intervention times, and they are divided by skill level.

Not every student getting small-group reading help is on an independent education plan, Bilski said, and the goal is that the student should not have to go on an IEP.

Progress is monitored every other week.

DeWine asked about summer programming.

Schaal said summer programming will definitely be offered to third graders but lessons are going to be reframed “because we’re just not seeing the carryover in the data.”

For the previous three-week summer programs, the district did not see sustainability of learning, she said.

“How would you describe the progress you’ve made?” DeWine asked.

When 2020-21 year is compared with this academic year, “we have shrunk (the number of) those kids at risk,” Schaal said.

DeWine and his wife, Fran, visited three classrooms where children were learning how to enunciate words, how words were structured, and how to build upon their skills.

“This is very impressive, what we’ve seen today,” DeWine said. “They’re really focused on reading, which is the most important thing in education because nothing else happens if you can’t read.”

He said he wanted to take the science of reading across the state.

“We came here today because they’re doing such a great job,” DeWine said.

DeWine said by traveling throughout the state, he has the an opportunity to listen and take notes, then work with the legislature.

DeWine’s proposed budget includes a $162 million science of reading proposal that has $64 million for science of reading curricula, $43 million each year for the next two years to offer science of reading instruction for educators, and $12 million to support 100 literacy coaches in schools and districts.

“Any opportunity that we have to invest in our children is not only an investment in them directly, it’s a broader investment in our state and our country,” said Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, who is on the House finance committee.

“I think it’s impressive that (DeWine) wants to see how (students are) taught and watch the teachers in action and see the students’ response,” said Bowling Green board of education member Norm Geer.

Jill Carr, who is also on the board of education, said having DeWine in the district was an opportunity to show him the vast responsibilities of the teachers and see students who have so many different needs.

“It’s an honor to have the governor come visit your district, but it’s a compliment to our teachers and the work that’s being done in our schools,” said Superintendent Francis Scruci. “It’s a good shot in the arm for our teachers to know that the work they’re doing is appreciated.”

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