Fall has officially begun, and school is off to a fast and furious start! In just the first few weeks of school, I am in awe of all that has already been accomplished. Teachers have welcomed almost 6,000 students into their classrooms since August 21st. They spent days, if not weeks, preparing lesson plans, bulletin boards, classroom materials, nameplates, folders, pencils, and so much more. Class lists were sent and resent as students settled into their various schools and classes. With a plate full of goals, our teachers began the work of instruction and connection. Making their classrooms a place for learning, sharing, making friends, accomplishing new tasks, and connecting what they already know to what they are also learning. You may have heard students today are in great need of high-quality instruction.
If you have children in elementary school, you may have heard the term “The Science of Reading.” The Science of Reading is a term that refers to teaching about the patterns within the English language that help one to determine how a word sounds and what it means. One well-known component of The Science of Reading is phonics. It also includes spelling, morphology, comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and background knowledge. It encourages read-alouds rich in vocabulary and imagination and many opportunities for kids to explore areas of interest. What you may not have heard is that here in Ukiah, we are bringing the Science of Reading into our district and classrooms.
On one front, we are providing a two-year program of professional development for almost 80 elementary teachers. This program is an enormous commitment for our teachers but well worth their time and effort. Rarely have I ever heard such great reviews of any single professional development program! So, after school and on the weekends, these teachers are spending almost 100 hours of their own time each year to learn how to better instruct children on how to read, write, and make sense of what they are reading. UUSD is committed to providing high-quality reading instruction, which means ensuring that our teachers have access to the latest information about what research has identified and validated as the most effective ways to teach reading.
On another front, we are providing instruction to our students that allows them to analyze words to determine sounds and even meaning. Younger students are learning why one word might have a short vowel sound, and another might have a long one. They are learning how to break long words into small syllables and then use what they know about the meaningful parts of the words to determine their meaning. Students are finding that they are being equipped with a superpower to decode new words and to read independently.
As schools work collaboratively to build schedules, allocate rooms, identify resources, and purchase materials, they end up with an environment of supported learning. So all this comes together when students and their families prioritize being at school. The reality is that we love our students, and we love to see them succeed even more. When parents can partner with their school to overcome whatever is keeping a child from attending daily, there is great success! I know that every child is a treasured member of their class community. The teachers of UUSD are going above and beyond to provide the very best for our students, and we are so glad to be such an integral part of their learning journey.