Early Reading is Critical to Later Academic Achievement
PREP-KC Delivers Professional Development for Early Literacy to Urban Districts

Children who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grade are much less likely to complete high school well prepared for their future. With this in mind, PREP-KC designed and launched the Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative to significantly increase the number of urban students who are skilled readers by third grade. This strategy also fosters a lifelong love of reading among our community’s youngest students.

PREP-KC supports K-3 teachers by providing powerful, year-round professional development focused on the most effective instructional methods for teaching literacy to new readers. Additionally, PREP-KC provides every classroom with a diverse, high-quality classroom library to support students’ independent reading both in school and at home.

In this second year of implementation (2016-17), PREP-KC’s Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative will improved instruction in more than 225 classrooms that serve 4,628 students across three urban districts.


Why Early Reading Matters
Proficiency in reading at third grade is highly predictive of both completing high school and going on to postsecondary education. This is a reason that PREP-KC’s Early Literacy Benchmarking initiative is an up-stream predictor for PREP-KC.
“Third grade is kind of a pivot point, we teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense, if you haven’t succeeded by 3rd grade, it’s more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then,” said Dr. Hernandez, Hunter College at the City University of New York. (Source: Sparks, S. D. (2011). Study: Third-Grade Reading Predicts Later High School Graduation. Inside School Research, 2-11.)


Urban, low-income children who attend schools served by PREP-KC are more likely to begin Kindergarten with significant gaps in their language and reading experiences. Teachers need to have very powerful instructional skills to close those gaps.

Professional Development Support Teachers Said They Needed
As PREP-KC was planning for the Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative, a 2015 survey of 91 K-3 teachers in three urban districts, teachers reported a significant gap in two key areas:

  1. Access to professional development in best practices in literacy instruction.

Only 32% of teachers reported that they feel confident in their abilities to teach children at any reading level and 47% indicated that they would benefit from additional strategies for teaching struggling readers, and 44% of teachers reported they do not do daily read alouds.

  1. Implementation of best practices in literacy instruction.

Survey results indicated that 80% of teachers are not using book talks as a regular practice in their classrooms; 51% indicated that independent reading was not a daily practice; 84% of teachers indicated that meeting and conferring with students regarding their reading progress was not a part of their weekly instructional practice.


How PREP-KC Prepares Teachers
During the past two years (2014-15 and 2015-16), PREP-KC began implementing the Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative. In the Year 1 Implementation (2015-16), Center, Grandview School Districts and Allen Village Charter School began using the early learning classroom strategies.
The program provides effective professional development focused on early literacy to entire faculties of K-3 teachers and measures annual progress on the percentage of third graders who test proficient on the state’s Third grade Communication Arts assessment.

Tangible resources (the classroom libraries) and targeted professional development together to provide the needed support for teachers to close gaps and help their students learn to read by grade three. PREP KC’s K-3 literacy approach helps foster a life-long love of learning and identity as a reader.  These educational strategies are so important, and often overlooked in the quest for test scores.

Results to Date
PREP-KC’s Early Literacy Benchmarking Initiative is working to improve instruction in more than 225 classrooms that serve 4,628 students across three urban districts.

Among the three districts involved in 2015-16, all 95 K-2 teachers were involved in 76 days of professional development (before and during school year). Classroom Library Set-Ups were initiated and expanded in August 2016. (See story about the classroom libraries.) As a result, positive changes are taking place for teachers and students.

Positive changes in instructional practices:

  • Teachers are becoming more knowledgeable about effective teaching strategies that they can use in their classroom to teach reading/literacy (95%).
  • During independent reading time, teachers take notes and confer with students about their strengths and next steps in students’ reading process (78%).
  • Teachers are able to guide students in the appropriate selection of reading materials (90%).

Positive changes to the literacy environment:

  • Teachers encourage parents to read with their children at home (95%)
  • Students choose books from the classroom library that they read during independent reading time (91%)
  • Students have an opportunity to browse the library and select “just right” books (90%)
  • Teachers are able to guide students in the appropriate selection of reading materials (90%)


PREP-KC has three goals for expansion of the Early Literacy Initiative:

  • Introduce additional K-2 reading strategies
  • Expand program to serve Grade 3
  • Expand program to Hickman Mills District K-2 classrooms

Two research studies underline the importance of these early literacy initiatives:

“We know that having an effective teacher three years in a row versus having an ineffective teacher three to four years in a row is akin to closing the achievement gap in literacy.” Source: Sanders, W., & Rivers, J. (1996). Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future students’ academic achievement. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center.

“Teacher knowledge, training, and skill are essential to implementing any program that focuses on struggling readers … Struggling readers can and will make progress in their reading abilities when taught by informed and committed educators.” – Kelly and Campbell, 2012