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Kyrene Teachers to Get Certified in the ‘Science of Reading’

Posted October 2023


In an effort to help kids read better, Arizona elementary teachers are working towards a newer certification requirement. The Kyrene Elementary School District has been working on the curriculum for years.

It’s called the science of reading.

“The science of reading is using neuroscience to understand how the brain learns how to read and that's what helps our students to become better readers because we're teaching them in a systematic, explicit, structured way,” said Holly Cook, an academic interventionist at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School.

That means teachers make sure kindergartners through fifth graders understand the sounds and phonics as opposed to just learning words and using context clues.

The Kyrene Elementary School District has been working with a science of reading curriculum for years, specifically focusing on the younger students. The district said the plan is to catch kids as early as possible since it’s a little more difficult to catch students up as they grow older.

“We see students growing constantly and these programs do grow kids. If we aren't seeing that growth, we change strategies to make sure we do get that growth out of students,” said Jessey Johnson, the principal of Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School.

A law passed by the state a few years ago, requires kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, who work with literacy instruction, to receive a literacy endorsement certification in the science of reading by 2028 with different timelines for certain skilled or new teachers.

“Our hope is they have background knowledge where they don't need to rely on context clues as much as we probably did,” said Cook.

The Kyrene Elementary School District is making early literacy one of its priorities. The goal is to have at least 85% of the district’s kindergarten class meet the end-of-year DIBELS reading benchmark. DIBELS is one skill-measuring assessment.

While the district couldn’t provide numbers in time for the report for the prior school year, they say under the strategic plan, the kindergarten baseline was at 74% last school year.

Cook said she does see a difference in the kids’ academics with the science of reading.

“In my experience in teaching elsewhere, I definitely see our kids have a strong grasp of phonics and they know how to do things that I don't think fifth graders where I previously taught did know as well,” said Cook.

The district said 36 teachers have already completed the 90 hours of the LETRS program (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling), an approved training program for the literacy endorsement certification. 23 more teachers are halfway done with the training and about 550 more teachers will be done with the program by May 2025.