PAGE Letter to GCS Director of Literacy

August 17, 2018

 

Joy Cantey
Director of Literacy
Guilford County Schools
501 W. Washington St.
Greensboro, NC 27401

RE:   Clarifying students’ ARC independent reading options for teachers

Dear Ms. Cantey,

Guilford County PAGE is a 501c3 educational advocacy organization focused on supporting our county’s K-12 gifted learners. PAGE stands for Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education and is an affiliate of NCAGT. As you are now the Director of Literacy at GCS, this letter reaches out to ask for your help as a partner for the advancement of literacy education for all students, even the gifted.

Since the American Reading Company (ARC) balanced literacy program was launched in Guilford County Schools, our organization has received feedback from parents, educators and others regarding the program. While we are pleased Guilford County Schools has continued to refine the implementation of the program, our board continues to be concerned about two persisting issues affecting the gifted learners we represent – improper IRLA reading level assessment levels and color/level bin restrictions.

First, we continue to receive feedback that the IRLA reading level assessments often place students at a lower level compared with other instruments, assessments or even a teacher’s cumulative experience of student performance. In addition, we have been told assessing students is time-consuming, so not all students are being assessed, assessed properly or with the suggested frequency. Such irregularities could contribute to continued lower placement of students, which we believe has the unintended consequence of limiting reading progress and especially, properly challenging students.

Second, we continue to receive feedback that some teachers are still requiring students to choose reading material from only their assigned bin/color level. This restriction frustrates and disengages readers who are capable of reading levels above the class. A year ago, during a meeting with Dr. Oakley and Mrs. Jones, it was determined that students should have freedom to choose from among many bins, which supports high-interest and wide reading among students, key tenants of the ARC program. The following excerpt from the Guilford County PAGE’s  Forward Matters Winter 2017-18 e-newsletter was approved by Dr. Oakley:

“For independent reading, students may select books from any color and any source (classroom bins, classroom library, school, home or public library), although teachers may try to guide students towards the most appropriate independent level. To determine the ‘color’ of any book, find its Lexile level or AR level, and then, convert it using the ARC chart. However, we have found the conversion chart’s color does not always match the ARC database’s color, so students and parents can also seek guidance from ELA teachers.”

To address these related issues, our board believes it would be helpful if your department communicates its book bin policy at the start of the school year to all ELA teachers using the ARC curriculum in grades 3 through 9. We believe that by clarifying ARC reading options for teachers, students will benefit from having access to the full range of reading options and will be less likely to be hindered by an improper IRLA placement.

On behalf of Guilford County PAGE, I appreciate your attention to this important matter. I would like to meet with you for twenty minutes during the next two weeks to personally introduce myself and to go over actions to inform the teachers, parents and students in GCS about book level options for independent reading.  Again, PAGE is willing to support this effort, but we believe the communication needs to start from you. I can be reached via email at Katherine@GuilfordCountyPAGE.org  and am available most days 9 AM until 2 PM.

Sincerely,
Katherine Humphreys
President, Guilford County PAGE
(Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education)

CC:
Mrs. Dibrelle Tourret, Executive Director of AIG
Dr. Whitney Oakley, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development
Mrs. Ginny Zmuda, VP of Guilford County PAGE
Mrs. Becky Lange, Communications Chair of Guilford County PAGE