Haverhill Public Schools Piloting Letterland Early Literacy Program

(File photograph.)

Haverhill Public Schools is ready to put a focus on phonics in the city’s quest to get all students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Following a successful pilot at Hunking School and in several kindergarten classes, the district is considering adopting a multi-sensory curriculum for young readers called Letterland.

As Superintendent Margaret Marotta outlined at the Feb. 14 School Committee meeting, Letterland could help Haverhill streamline curriculum at a critical time in a student’s development. According to Sally Fuller, the director of the Springfield-based Reading Success by 4th Grade, children’s vocabulary in kindergarten strongly correlates with their reading scores as a 10th grader.

Third graders in Haverhill have a varied level of literacy achievement when compared to other districts, Marotta said. Last year’s numbers put Bradford Elementary students in the 76th percentile and Consentino in the fifth percentile. The discrepancy is due, in part, to a lack of a district-wide vision of literacy and a lack of consistency in instruction between classrooms and schools, Marotta said.

“We really need to have a consistent early literacy program that’s structured and research-based and implemented with fidelity across our school system and currently we don’t have that.”

The school system’s ELA Supervisor Helene Levine sees immense value in bringing Letterland to all students in Haverhill. Songs with specific characters are embedded in stories like “Harry Hat Man,” who helps students understand the letter and sound for ‘H.’ That way, she said, students aren’t just blindly tasked with making sense of abstract letters on a page. Materials are also available on YouTube to encourage at-home integration and weekly assessments are used to monitor student progress.

Streamlining the district’s vision for early literacy is a must, Levine said.

“There’s a lack of consistency in instruction between our classrooms and schools and because of that lack of vision and consistency, a child can go to a different classroom and the instruction may be different. When they go to a different school, it’s almost as if they’re going to a different state.”

Implemented for a cost of $69,000, Letterland will likely be rolled out in time for the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Marotta said.

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