Reading NOW!

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools has committed to being a member of the West Michigan Reading Now Network. Education leaders throughout West Michigan understand the importance of developing talent that is career ready and college capable. While there are a variety of metrics (8th grade math achievement, ACT and NCRC scores, graduation rates, etc.) that help us gauge our success, no milestone may be more indicative of students’ future achievement than their early reading proficiency. While good results on all commonly accepted metrics remain our mission, in no other area are the measures so reliable and valid, the prognosis for poor performance so clear, and the collective industry knowledge so deep.

That’s why superintendents from ten West Michigan counties have coalesced around this collaborative initiative to insure we meet Michigan’s goal: a minimum 80% of third graders in all demographic groups read proficiently at grade level and that intervention strategies be systemically implemented for the 20% who, due to normal developmental differences, take a little longer.

The stakes have never been higher

One in six children who do not read proficiently in third grade fail to graduate from high school on time, four times the rate for children with proficient third grade reading skills. In the “pivotal” third and fourth grade years, students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Fourth graders struggling to read begin to lag in many, if not most, subject areas; comprehension and vocabulary suffer.

These challenges, however, can be best mitigated when leading practices in early intervention and instructional methods are identified, shared, and implemented BEFORE a child reaches third grade. While today’s schools are forced to compete with each other on many fronts, school leaders in the Reading Now Network are committed to sharing these practices on behalf of the region’s children. The Reading Now Network embraces two powerful philosophical positions:

  1. There is a moral and economic imperative to the relentless pursuit of early literacy.
  2. We must collectively own both our successes and struggles because every child is a valued and important member…now and in the future…of our Godfrey-Lee school district, the West Michigan community and the world beyond.

The Reading Now Network will:

  • Benchmark successful early literacy practices in other countries, states, and across our own region
  • Implement proven, research-based K-3 literacy instruction and interventions
  • Marshal the region’s K-3 literacy expertise and experts on behalf of all the region’s children
  • Design and deliver teacher professional development that reflects best practices in K-3 literacy
  • Openly share successful strategies for early intervention, remediation, and acceleration
  • Open our classrooms to cross-regional learning, highlighting “bright spot” innovative practices
  • Identify and promote community-wide support and involvement in helping our students read
  • Assist parents with at-home strategies, including non-English speaking or non-reading parents
  • Hold each other accountable for our mutual success

How is this different from today? Too often, teachers, schools and school districts work in isolation, attempting to overcome all obstacles on their own. Schools in the Reading Now Network are going to break down the barriers, work together, share their best work and inspire all to do better.  Our partners will include Talent 2025, an employer-led initiative to enhance the skills and educational attainment of our workforce and retain those talented people within our region, as well as Grand Valley State University which is committed to working in concert with schools like ours to help in data analysis and program evaluation.

We are excited to be a part of this collaborative effort and look forward to the added effort of achieving reading and overall academic success for our students. As a Reading Now Network member, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools will work with education, business, legislative, community and parent partners to insure that every child in our district and region is a successful reader, both sharing with and learning from all partners in the network.

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About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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