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    Early Literacy Community Work Group Convenes Throughout the Summer
    Posted on 08/16/2019
    Two students pick out books together in a school library

    Early Literacy Community Work Group Convenes Throughout the Summer

    The district’s new strategic plan is unapologetically focused on students of color, those furthest from educational justice, beginning with African American males. Early literacy will be a major focus area of this school year.

    Reading well by 3rd grade is predictive of life success, and we believe that 100% of our students can become strong, independent readers. But to meet this goal, new approaches will be required and so will tapping into the community’s wisdom and expertise.

    Community partners, teacher mentors, school leaders, educators, district representatives from early learning, special education, English language arts (ELA), and ELL (English language learners) have been gathering to discuss their hopes, aspirations, priorities, and expertise related to the 3rd grade reading goal. This representative team will meet once a month, throughout the 2019-20 school year to inform the early literacy work and help the district make course corrections as needed.

    The first two meetings were held in June at the Northwest African American Museum, and the most recent convening was at the Summer Learning Program at ACE Academy held in South Shore K-8 School. Honest conversations about the challenges and opportunities of this work took place. Conversations centered on the need to build an accurate and affirming narrative about the excellence of our black students and the profound contributions African Americans have made and continue to make in society.

    At the first meeting, members reviewed text from the book, “We Dare Say Love,” and discussed African American male student experiences and the possibilities therein. Everyone had the opportunity to tour the museum and view examples of Black Excellence from the 18th century to the present. At the second meeting, members looked at affirming images of Black Excellence in children’s books.

    In the most recent meeting, the work group members had the opportunity to hear from students and staff on learning that takes place at ACE Academy and how it prioritizes Afrocentric affirming points of view and brainstormed how SPS could model and replicate some best practices to support students. Students are asked to consistently think of themselves as leaders and to have pride in their names, background, and stories. Staff create a safe learning and social environment where students can feel comfortable and express themselves freely.

    The program focuses on rising 7th grade males who attend South Shore K-8. Young men attend classes in the morning (humanities, math and science, reading and writing, and health and wellness). In the afternoon, they participate in daily huddles where they have conversations with staff about their community and family goals, what it means to be a big brother, and positive affirmations of one’s self.

    A common thread that has surfaced in discussions at these community convenings from members and students/staff at ACE Academy is how imperative it is for all adults to understand the exceptionality of African American students and to support the development of their strengths at the school level. The community work group are referencing materials and learnings from other organizations that have developed and implemented learning experiences for African American students that empower, nurture, and support their achievement and helping them to thrive.

    Thank you to the students and staff of ACE Academy for inviting us into their space to hear and learn from their work, and we extend our gratitude to the members of the community work group for sharing their insights. All that has been shared thus far are valuable as the momentum of the work begins to build and will shape the design, development, and implementation of the early literacy work plan in the new school year.

    Read more about the Seattle Public Schools strategic plan.