A $92,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation to the USC Rossier School of Education is helping teachers at Norwood Elementary School and the Foshay Learning Center improve how they teach young children to read and write.
The Verizon/USC Project is a professional development program that brings together five teachers from each of the schools for twice-monthly meetings to examine critical literacy issues not typically explored during staff meetings, said education professor Laurie MacGillivray, the project’s director.
“They learn how to tailor their teaching methods to the needs of each student,” MacGillivray said. “They share their current successful best practices with each other, and they learn how to connect their lessons to a student’s experiences in order to increase the power of instruction.”
Current research stresses the importance of adapting reading instruction to each child’s interest, MacGillivray said. This requires searching for the hook that keeps them involved in learning.
About one out of every five adult Americans is functionally illiterate, unable to complete job forms or read simple instructions, MacGillivray said. Among youngsters, an estimated 13 percent of all 17-year-olds are functionally illiterate, and 60 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading up to grade level.
The project ties into MacGillivray‘s current research into teachers’ literacy beliefs, emergent literacy, and political and sociocultural issues surrounding reading and writing in the inner city. Doctoral students Amy Ardell, Margie Curwen and Jennifer Skoda assist her on the project.
Teachers at Norwood and Foshay – both members of USC’s Family of Five Schools – are “talking to their colleagues,” Skoda said, “and we anticipate a ripple effect of sharing ideas that will influence practices and promote student achievement.”