Tulare high school district hire reading teacher for non-english teachers

The Tulare Joint Union High School District hires teacher on special assignment to help district staff to better work with students across the curriculum in reading, writing and comprehension

TULARE –After seeing a huge decline in reading, writing and comprehension skills, Tulare’s high school district has taken the first steps to repair the damage done by distance learning during the pandemic by hiring a professional to work with teachers to bring students back up to par.

Throughout the pandemic, students had to learn not only a different way of life, but also a different way to learn. Unfortunately, everyone is seeing the effects distance learning had on comprehension and reading as students go back to school. The Tulare Joint Union High School District (TJUHSD) has hired a literacy teacher on special assignment (TOSA) this year to help the district repair the damage. 

“What we know is that COVID has had a long lasting effect on student learning,” Kevin Covert, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, technology and assessment, said. “One of the areas which affected students is reading levels and we noticed that in the students’ abilities to comprehend things in the classroom.”

TJUHSD’s goal is to create a position that will specifically work with teachers across the board in all subject matters to help increase literacy throughout the district. The idea is if each and every teacher has the tools needed to aid students, it will be harder for any one student to slip through the cracks. Covert said through California’s Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading or STAR testing, staff could see students were reading at “lower than normal levels.”

Each year students start and finish the year by taking a STAR test.  According to Covert, the district was able to determine the severity of the issue through this testing as well as hearing from the teachers. This year the district will be able to determine if students have progressed, and assess if they need to find additional ways to help if necessary, like adding additional reading intervention classes. 

One explanation for the drop in reading levels and comprehension is that these areas were difficult to execute through online learning. Distance learning makes it difficult to monitor reading and implement peer editing, or passing your paper to your peer for them to edit papers written in class. Covert said this was a contributing factor in the decline of students’ abilities. As a result, this year the district is getting back to implementing writing across the curriculum. By bringing writing back into every aspect of a student’s learning, it will help ingrain some of the principles into students. 

The TOSA will mostly help teachers in classrooms outside of english. She will provide educators who teach classes in science, math or any others who may not have learned how to teach writing strategies. The TOSA has also met with all the new teachers to introduce methods on how to help students get over the hump. According to Covert, the TOSA will provide methods on how to make lessons easier to understand while students get back up to par. 

Implementing writing across the curriculum, means students will have to write two essays in each class, no matter the subject, throughout the year. In the fall students will write an informational essay and in the spring students will write an argumentative essay. Covert acknowledged the writing in every class may seem redundant, but an essay in a biology class will look different from an essay in an algebra class. 

“The reality is that [writing] is like riding a bike. Our kids need that practice,” Covert said. “We were forced with life happening to get away from some of [that practice].”

For the 2022 school year, the TOSA will be sharing time between all the schools in the district. She will meet with teachers via staff meetings, department meetings, professional learning communities (PCL) and she will also host workshops for teachers. 

This is a temporary position and is funded for three years through an educator effectiveness block grant. 

“My goal would be at the end of the grant, that the work that is done could be substantiated through the results of data that we would then find a way to continue to fund this position when the grant runs out,” Covert said. 

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