Edina Public Schools leads statewide efforts in literacy instruction
Edina celebrates cohort’s graduation from revolutionary LETRS program
Edina Public Schools is abuzz with celebration as 30 dedicated educators marked a significant milestone in their professional development journey. This summer, they proudly graduated from the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program after completing a rigorous 144-hour graduate-level course.
These educators have embarked on a journey to enhance their skills and knowledge in evidence-based reading instruction. Edina Public Schools, in anticipation of the Minnesota Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act) signed into law on May 24, 2023, made proactive strides in preparing its educators to meet the new legislative requirements.
The READ Act sets forth a vision for every Minnesota child to read at or above grade level starting from kindergarten. To achieve this, the law mandates screening of students in kindergarten through third grade twice a year. These screenings assess foundational reading skills, phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, fluency, oral language, and characteristics of dyslexia.
"Literacy is the currency of power in the United States,” said Superintendent Dr. Stacie Stanley. “What these educators have done is some of the most impactful work to change learning and the practice of teaching. They are true trailblazers in our state."
Prior to these mandates, Edina Public Schools, began using the FASTBridge universal screener in 2021. The district is committed to using valid and reliable data to inform instruction and ensure that all students receive the support they need to excel in reading.
The READ Act also requires that K-3 educators undergo structured literacy training. By July 1, 2025, teachers of these grades, special education teachers, curriculum directors, instructional support staff, and those responsible for selecting literacy materials must complete this training. Edina has been proactive in ensuring that its educators are well-prepared for this mandate. This year, 270 of Edina Public School K-3 professionals (i.e., nearly 100 percent) are actively engaged in the LETRS training or are now in implementation. Edina Public Schools took the requirement a step further by ensuring PreK educators also participated in this critical professional development.
"Literacy is the cornerstone of education. The MN READ Act is designed to ensure that every child in Minnesota reads at or above grade level,” said State Representative Heather Edelson. “I applaud these outstanding educators and Edina Public Schools’ efforts in literacy instruction. This work is not only impactful; it's transformative.”
Looking beyond elementary grades, Edina is also preparing its 4th and 5th grade teachers with the ASPIRE Professional Development program, a series of 40 modules based on empirical research on the science of reading. By 2025, all K-8 teachers in Edina will have undergone rigorous, job-embedded professional development centered on structured literacy.
The commitment of Edina's educators to structured literacy and their dedication to this training program have been made possible through a $400,000 commitment from the City of Edina and the Edina Education Fund. This investment has proven to be a game-changer, allowing teachers to meet students where they are and support their diverse learning needs effectively.
As Edina pioneers this journey towards improved evidence-based literacy education, the impact is already visible. Universal screening data from 2022-2023 showed significant increases in student performance, affirming the effectiveness of the LETRs program in nurturing language and literacy experts among Edina's educators.
Sandra Harley, Ed.S., the district's literacy coach, sums it up perfectly, "There is a lot of excitement around LETRs; it has fostered great collaboration among our teachers all while supporting our comprehensive literacy plan by focusing on students' academic growth and readiness." Edina's commitment to literacy is a testament to its dedication to student success and the bright future of its community.