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At SF schools, reading comprehension doesn’t stop for the holidays

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A fifth grade student at Bryant Elementary School reads during the first day of school on Aug. 15. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Even though school is on break for the next couple weeks, that doesn’t mean a break in reading. Whether it’s on phones, the backs of toy boxes or a good novel, we are surrounded by text — and the ability to be a critical and engaged reader is important.

In fact, we at the San Francisco Unified School District cultivate a solid foundation in literacy that begins as soon as students enter the classroom.

Take McCoppin Elementary as an example. Each classroom has a library filled with exciting new books and comfortable areas where students engage in partner and independent reading. Students can also borrow tablets loaded with thousands of titles, so they can take reading material home.

Two years ago, it wasn’t like this at McCoppin. But with funding help from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, SFUSD leaders and McCoppin staff set out to demonstrate what can happen when a school goes all-in and commits to delivering literacy instruction, as described in our district’s strategic plan.

The school has gone from a place where teachers used a patchwork of literacy instruction methods to one in which all teachers collaborate and take a shared approach.

Every member of the school’s staff participated in integrating three critical components designed to improve student achievement: They dramatically improved the learning environment, built the professional capacity of all the adults at the school, and expanded learning opportunities for students outside of the regular school day.

The school’s most-recent standardized test scores show that the changes they’ve made are working. With a 14 percent increase in English Language Arts scores, McCoppin is one of the most improved public elementary schools in The City.

I think we can all agree that having a solid foundation in reading and writing is critical for students to become lifelong learners. At schools like McCoppin and so many others across the SFUSD, teachers are getting even better at providing this strong foundation.

These changes have yielded great results for our students that extend beyond higher test scores, because literacy and reading comprehension — along with the ability to separate real news from falsehoods — is a skill that will serve them well their entire lives.

Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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