The Brainerd School Board voted unanimously Monday, June 14, to approve a childhood literacy program called “Read Well by Grade 3” as another means to boost literacy rates among the district’s younger students.
“Read Well by Grade 3” is a data-driven approach to literacy, said Taylor Demuth, the district’s elementary literacy and social studies coordinator. And, she noted, it’s a program that places special emphasis on tracking students’ performance, identifying when and where they’re falling behind, and proactively working to address those areas of weakness.
Using a highly structured method of tracking and teaching, Demuth said, the intention is to monitor students and have a specific approach to each stage and challenge of a student’s path through literacy.
“We use a comprehensive approach for reading instruction. We have a language and literacy framework that incorporates a whole group, small group and an individual assessment and tools to help students in the areas of reading, writing and word study,” Demuth told the board during a presentation. “This approach supports each learner using tailored instruction based upon their current needs for reading success.”
Demuth commended the efforts of teachers, who have had to tackle the inevitable challenges of teaching children how to read and had to do so during a global pandemic that made in-person learning impossible for long stretches of time.
She noted “Read Well by Grade 3” has a specific bent for tackling obstacles to reading such as dyslexia — an issue that may be more prevalent than educators assumed in decades past, she said, and one the literacy program has a specific response to. While tracking a student’s learning curve, she said, teachers are able to identify the signs and symptoms of a student who struggles with dyslexia. The program also offers a step-by-step response to these programs, she noted, and guides educators as they determine when and how they should step in with more concerted efforts to help students when they struggle.
“We use a comprehensive approach for reading instruction. We have a language and literacy framework that incorporates a whole group, small group and an individual assessment and tools to help students in the areas of reading, writing and word study,”
— Taylor Demuth, elementary social studies and literacy coordinator
In terms of performance, Demuth gave an update on specialized literacy competency scores:
Kindergarten students in the Brainerd School District had a 91% passing rate for letter identification and an 85% passing rate for concepts about print.
In First Grade, district students had an 89% passing rate for hearing and recording sounds.
In a grade by grade level for general disciplinary literacy — or when a student is reading at or above their grade level — Demuth relayed the following:
District kindergarteners have a 65% passing rate.
District first graders have a 58% passing rate.
District second graders have a 64% passing rate.
District third graders have a 63% passing rate.
District fifth graders have a 63% passing rate.
In other business, the board:
Accepted donations from the Brainerd Baxter Baseball Association for 216 new baseballs and 24 5-gallon buckets for the parks and recreation program; as well as $200 from Costco for the districtwide food program’s Angel Fund.
Approved the hires of Tanya Johnston, a Title I and intervention teacher at Harrison and Lowell elementary schools; Maxwell Krueger, an eighth grade math teacher at Forestview Middle School; Jay Lokken, a special education teacher at Harrison Elementary School; Amy McDonald, a summer school special education teacher at Baxter Elementary School; Carrie Neumann, a kindergarten teacher at Harrison Elementary School; Travis Raske, a fifth grade science teacher at Forestview Middle School; Mary Schlangen, a fourth grade teacher at Baxter Elementary School; Virginia Schwichtenberg Olson, a summer school teacher at Baxter Elementary School; Sara Stepan, a first grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School; Julia Stevens, a long-term substitute second grade teacher at Garfield Elementary; and Helena Wise, a school counselor at Forestview Middle School.
Approved an insurance and work compensation framework for fiscal year 2022 by continuing representation with Weizenegger & Engel Insurance; renew property/inland marine/general/school leaders, auto, umbrella and crime liability insurance with the Hanover Insurance Group Inc.; agree to new contract for cyber liability insurance with Cowbell Cyber Inc.; and renew workers’ compensation insurance with SFM Mutual Insurance Co.
Approved a resolution to waive all Baxter baseball field fees for summer 2021.
Approved a proposed 2021-2022 budget for parks and recreation with estimated revenues at $60,000 and estimated expenditures at $62,000.
Renewed the Brainerd School District’s membership in the Minnesota State High School League for interscholastic athletic competition and fine arts events.
Approved the payment of fees and dues to the Minnesota School Board Association for fiscal year July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, in the amount of $13,222.
Approved a revision to the district’s alcohol and drug testing policy by removing requirements that bus drivers, or any employment position that requires a commercial driving license, be subject to federal alcohol/drug testing guidelines. In line with this, the board also approved the removal of documents that the district and its employees adhere to with these policies.
Approved a revision of the district’s facility and equipment use statutes with the provision that alcohol consumption and sales may be allowed in some circumstances at Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts at Brainerd High School. This provision is also subject to restrictions, such as approval through temporary liquor license permits and sales, nor can alcohol be transported or consumed in other areas of the high school.