Lots of reading specialists appreciate the Orton-Gillingham literacy approach, pointing to its effectiveness with students who have disorders like dyslexia. Princeton Regional Public Schools District is taking this appreciation a step further: the district will now integrate Orton-Gillingham into all K-3 elementary reading instruction. Twenty teachers have already undergone the intensive training process and this summer all district kindergarten and first-grade teachers will learn how to implement the explicitly phonics and phonological awareness techniques into all classes.
“This is wonderful news for our early learners,” said PPS Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley. “Learning to read is the key to attaining academic success, and by incorporating Orton-Gillingham techniques into our program we will help all of our students achieve their full potential. This boost to our early elementary program aligns perfectly with our goal of supporting the needs of early learners, age 3 to grade three.”
Princeton’s ability to recreate its literacy programming, which will reverse what experts like Emily Hanford have decried as a false adherence to non-phonics-based instruction, has a lot to do with the district’s new Elementary Education Supervisor, Sarah Moore, who was most recently supervisor of literacy and intervention in the Robbinsville Public Schools and started at Princeton last August. She described “impressive results” from the introduction of the OG approach in Robbinsville. “We saw students reading on grade level go from approximately 45 percent to over 80 percent,” she said. “The national average for students reading on grade level by fourth grade is 33 percent, according to the most recent NAEP data.”
PPS recently received OG accreditation from the Institute for Multi-sensory Education, “a coveted designation that fewer than a dozen districts in the country receive,” according to the PPS press release, printed below in full:
Princeton Public Schools recently received Orton-Gillingham accreditation from the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education, a coveted designation that fewer than a dozen districts in the country receive. Orton-Gillingham is an approach used to teach reading and is considered one of the most successful and innovative techniques available.
“This is wonderful news for our early learners,” said Dr. Carol Kelley, Superintendent of Schools. “Learning to read is the key to attaining academic success and by incorporating Orton-Gillingham techniques into our program we will help all of our students achieve their full potential. This boost to our early elementary program aligns perfectly with our goal of supporting the needs of early learners, age 3 to Grade 3.”
This fall, PPS trained more than 20 staff members from the elementary schools and over the summer PPS will offer training to all kindergarten and first grade teachers.
Dr. Kimberly Tew, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, noted that the Orton-Gillingham method significantly improves students’ ability to read and hence their ability to “read to learn” when studying other subjects.
“The feedback from the Orton-Gillingham training this fall has been tremendously positive, and our interventionists are already using the program and strategies with students and reporting very strong results,” said Dr. Tew.
Using Orton-Gillingham, districts are able to reduce the number of students who read below grade-level or need Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) or other academic supports.
“If you can help students early, the data shows that you dramatically reduce the number of students who read below grade level,” said Dr. Tew.
“If you can provide early targeted academic interventions, 86 percent of students will not require any academic interventions. But if you wait until after second grade, there is a big drop and only 36 percent of student do not need future interventions,” she said.
Training at PPS has been headed by Sarah Moore, Supervisor of Elementary Education. Ms. Moore is a Level 5 Orton-Gillingham Master Instructor, and a certified Orton-Gillingham School District Trainer. She has written numerous journal articles on structured literacy practices. Nationally, Ms. Moore has trained over 500 teachers in the Orton-Gillingham methodology.
Both Dr. Kelley and Dr. Tew praised Ms. Moore for her expertise and noted that Orton-Gillingham Master Instructors are in high demand.
“I would like to thank Sarah Moore for the work she has done to share this knowledge with our educators,” said Dr. Tew, noting that Ms. Moore has had outstanding success with the approach in other NJ school districts. “We are thrilled to have this new accreditation for our district in recognition of the hard work teachers are putting in to strengthen our foundational literacy practices.”
In addition to incorporating Orton-Gillingham into the program for early learners, PPS has also planned other changes related to literacy and early intervention at the elementary schools:
- In the spring, PPS will move to Early Bird, an early literacy screener from Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital, which identifies students who need additional foundational reading support before deficits can occur.
- PPS previously used Fundations (a Wilson based program) to teach phonics in K-2 classrooms. Words Their Way has been used to teach phonics, vocabulary, and morphology in grades 3-5.
- This summer PPS will train all Kindergarten and first grade teachers in Orton-Gillingham and will roll out a new structured literacy block to replace Fundations. This daily block will incorporate phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension study.
- Heggerty will be added to kindergarten and first grade classrooms to promote additional phonological awareness work.