New guidance designed to increase student literacy

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HARRISBURG–Continuing its commitment to provide a high-quality education to students across the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced that it has developed new educator competencies to increase literacy. The competencies identify the knowledge and skills educators need to effectively teach reading based on current research.

“Having the ability to read is essential for individuals to thrive, and yet we know that many learners struggle with literacy,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “Providing future and current educators with clearly identified methods and skills will enable them to better support their students and use proven strategies to help them become proficient readers.”

PDE will provide structured literacy supports along with professional development and training to educators who hold instructional certificates in early childhood education, elementary-middle level, PK-12 Special Education, English as a Second Language, and Reading Specialist. Structured literacy focuses on five essential components of reading – phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

Under amendments to the Pennsylvania School Code, signed into law this year by Governor Tom Wolf, PDE was charged with establishing a program of professional development and applied practice in structured literacy. The continuing professional development plans of each school entity must include training in structured literacy competencies and standards for the five specified certification programs. Educator preparation programs must integrate the structured literacy competencies and standards for the five specified certification programs no later than August 1, 2024.

Structured literacy provides a strong core of foundational skills in the language systems of English; integrates listening, speaking, reading, spelling, and writing; and emphasizes the structure of language across the speech sound system, the writing system, the structure of sentences, the meaningful parts of words, the relationship among words and the organization of spoken and written discourse.

Literacy instruction focuses on decoding — the ability to apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships to correctly pronounce written words. This helps learners recognize familiar words quickly and figure out new words. Structured literacy instruction ensures that all students have access to effective reading instruction.

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