Enhancing Education

Holy Spirit Catholic School embraces innovative partnership to improve reading.

By Madeline Lupori

Learning how to read is the key to a successful education. Although the process begins with sounding out words, reading extends far beyond language arts class. Holy Spirit Catholic School noticed a pattern where students faced roadblocks in fourth grade when reading increasingly became a center of all curriculum. 

Faced with this challenge, Holy Spirit partnered with Groves Academy, a private school in St. Louis Park that serves students with learning challenges. The Groves framework is pioneering education, not only for its own students but also for all students beginning the literary journey. 

In an effort to improve reading education for young students, Holy Spirit teachers were extensively trained to implement a Literacy Framework program. Last school year, the kindergarten and first grade classes were the inaugural participants, and the results were astounding. 

For Meg Schneeman, Holy Spirit middle school English teacher, her passion for literacy extends beyond her students. Schneeman has two sons, one of whom is a participant in the program. 

“My little guy was a very hesitant reader at the beginning of first grade,” Schneeman explained. With the in-classroom instruction of the Groves partnership, Schneeman noticed changes in her son’s reading tendencies. 

The structured phonics approach teaches students to hear, listen and manipulate phonemes and show the relationship between sounds and spelling patterns. This instruction supplements the existing curriculum with 20 to 30 minutes of in-class work every day. 

“I’ve seen a huge increase in vocabulary from my little guy. He can decode words like it’s his job,” Schneeman said. “Seeing the difference in just a year’s time in his confidence, his ability to decode, his ability to comprehend and his overall enjoyment of sitting down to read a book — that has been the biggest positive.”

Students were tested three times to measure the program’s results. Mary Adrian, principal at Holy Spirit, shared the data-driven success of the partnership. Over the course of one year with the program, students who originally measured “at risk” of having learning difficulties almost unanimously moved into the category of “no risk” or even “above average readers.” 

Schneeman is thrilled her son has a newfound enjoyment for reading as a result of the framework. “What I’m seeing in my second grader, just eight weeks into school, is he’s as proficient a reader as my third grader is — if not even more so — because he’s been a part of this program,” Schneeman said. 

With great success in the first year, the program expanded to preschool through second grade for the 2018-2019 school year. 

“If we can prevent kids from struggling academically, then I think we’re doing a huge service to the world of education,” Adrian said.

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