DALLAS—Jan. 3, 2018—In just one year, student reading success at Rapides Parish Schools improved dramatically after the implementation of a new teacher professional development course of study, Voyager Sopris Learning's LETRS—to the extent that one district administrator refers to the results as "incredible."
Two years ago, administrators at Rapides Parish School Board in Louisiana arrived at the same conclusion other educators around the country have reached: many of today's teachers have not been equipped with the skills to teach early foundational reading. In a district-wide effort to boost teachers' reading instructional skills, Rapides Parish assembled a selection committee and overwhelmingly selected Voyager Sopris Learning's LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) professional development solution.
Since Rapides Parish teachers began the program in the 2016–17 school year, district officials have been duly impressed with their progress. According to Alana Cohen, district curriculum specialist, Rapides Parish has witnessed gains of 33 percent from K–3 students on their STAR Early Literacy tests. In this diverse district that serves more than 25,000 K–12 students, Rapides Parish is making great strides in improving reading and literacy before students fall too far behind.
"Overwhelmingly our fourth-grade teachers are telling us how the kids are coming out of third grade knowing so much more now than before we had LETRS," Cohen said.
To date, more than 300 teachers from Rapides Parish's lowest-performing elementary schools have received LETRS training, which offers more than a decade of demonstrated success in improving teacher effectiveness and focuses on raising preK–12 literacy achievement for all learners. LETRS provides teachers the background and depth of knowledge to teach language and literacy skills to every student and helps teachers recognize why some students struggle so that all students can become proficient readers.
"We are so excited to be a part of this," Cohen said. "On a professional development level, things are clicking, and the results have been incredible."
Kimberly Bennett, executive assistant superintendent at Rapides Parish, said one of her district's primary goals has been to improve the reading level and skills of its K–3 students.
"Going through the process, the one question we had to answer was ‘Do our teachers really understand the reading process?'" Bennett said. "For us, LETRS was the missing piece, especially with the shift in education where so many teachers are coming from non-traditional backgrounds to teach. It's imperative to us—teachers need to know how students learn to read to be able to effectively teach reading."
Mary Moore has been an educator in the Rapides Parish district for 25 years and is in her second year of LETRS training.
"I've had a lot of training over the years in phonics and phonemic awareness," said Moore, in her third year of teaching first grade. "But the LETRS training modules are very helpful and remind me about the importance of doing these drills. Student engagement is more important today than ever before, and the research we've learned as part of LETRS about how the brain works helps us know how to keep the kids engaged."
Cohen echoed Moore's assessment and said LETRS has not only helped students improve their reading proficiency, but also has dramatically buoyed the confidence of the teachers who have gone through the training.
"For our teachers, true learning is occurring, and the light bulb is being turned on. So many of the teachers have said, ‘How were we not taught these skills in college?'"
"This is the story we're hearing around the country when districts start training with LETRS," said Aaron Ingold, president, Voyager Sopris Learning. "These results at Rapides Parish are further proof that the skills teachers learn in LETRS training can be immediately applied to classroom practice, and students quickly benefit. Empowering every teacher to make a greater impact on student success is our goal."
Based in Alexandria, the ninth largest school district in Louisiana, Rapides Parish School Board serves students in 48 schools, 32 of which are elementary schools.
For more information on Voyager Sopris Learning, visit www.voyagersopris.com.
About Voyager Sopris Learning
Voyager Sopris Learning is an education partner committed to unlocking the full potential of every teacher and every student. We believe that the best way to meet and exceed standards in education is to address the underlying systems of teaching and learning, and to nurture those systems at their most fundamental levels. Our programs and services are based on research and classroom evidence, ensuring they are easy to implement, teacher friendly and effective. We offer a variety of digital and blended instructional tools, programs, and professional development, all of which are designed to help every teacher deliver nothing short of the highest-quality instruction to every student. Voyager Sopris Learning is a business unit of Cambium Learning Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: ABCD).
About Cambium Learning Group, Inc.
Cambium Learning Group (NASDAQ: ABCD) is an award-winning educational technology solutions leader dedicated to helping all students reach their potential through individualized and differentiated instruction. Using a research-based, personalized approach, Cambium Learning Group delivers SaaS resources and instructional products that engage students and support teachers in fun, positive, safe and scalable environments. These solutions are provided through Learning A-Z (online differentiated instruction for elementary school reading, writing and science), ExploreLearning (online interactive math and science simulations and a math fact fluency solution) and Voyager Sopris Learning (blended solutions that accelerate struggling learners to achieve in literacy and math and professional development for teachers). We believe that every student has unlimited potential, that teachers matter, and that data, instruction, and practice are the keys to success in the classroom and beyond.