As debate about how to best teach reading has intensified throughout the country, educators from across public, private and parochial schools gathered today for a two-day convening on elementary school literacy at Success Academy’s Robertson Center in midtown Manhattan. Traveling from California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, educators will focus on learning and practicing techniques to build great readers.
With educators still divided over a phonics-based or “whole language” approach — one in which students learn to recognize whole words rather than sound them out — the program will highlight what Success has found to be the key ingredients of a strong literacy curriculum: Systematic phonics instruction, paired with a classroom culture geared towards falling in love with books.
“The single biggest leg-up we can give to a young learner is a passion for reading,” said Jessica Sie, Director of Literacy and History at Success Academy. "In our experience, the best formula for delivering that is that phonics foundation, a classroom full of amazing texts, and a book-obsessed school culture that empowers kids to explore ideas, build their knowledge and vocabulary, travel to far away lands, and dream big about what’s possible for their own life stories.”
The heart of the program is Success Academy’s THINK Literacy curriculum, which the network released for free in June of 2017 via its Ed Institute website. The curriculum has helped the network’s mostly low-income students top the ELA performance of their peers in Scarsdale, Jericho, and every other district in the state.
“Kids who love to read can teach themselves anything,” said Stacey Gershkovich, Managing Director of Sharing at the Robertson Center. “The magic of the approach is in the excitement and curiosity it unleashes. Once they start connecting the dots and engaging with all the different texts and stories they’re reading, they just want to keep going. It’s pretty fun to watch.”
This experience is part of a full calendar of programming at the Robertson Center — Success Academy’s new accelerator for educators across the planet — all of which is free for participants. Programs focus on curriculum and practice, educator wellbeing, and big ideas shaping the future of schooling.