Bright Futures in Madison Parish
Research suggests that nearly all students can become competent readers, but they need high-quality instruction and an early start. To achieve this, SEDL has partnered with Madison Parish Public Schools and the Delta Community Action Association-Tallulah Head Start to form the Bright Futures Early Reading First project. On this project, SEDL staff are working to improve the school readiness of 250 preschool children from low-income families at three preschools in Tallulah, Louisiana.
SEDL staff support Madison Parish's efforts by providing professional development in research-based early literacy instruction and language development to teachers, reading coaches, and project coordinators. Ardenia Dunlap, a teacher in Madison Parish, believes the combination of the research-based curriculum and professional development is essential. "We have changed to a more intense reading program," says Dunlap, "but that's not all. SEDL has worked with our reading coach and the teachers, and now we meet regularly to talk about where we are and where we go from here to help the students learn."
Because parent engagement is another important part of the Early Reading First program, SEDL has also worked closely with Madison Parish's parent involvement coordinator. Together they have provided support in planning and promoting Family Literacy Night activities and helped with ongoing efforts to educate parents on being more informed and involved in their children's literacy development.
SEDL's Research and Evaluation department has played a key role in ensuring the program's success by evaluating the implementation efforts and impact of the program. SEDL evaluators have observed professional development sessions provided by SEDL program staff, collected evaluations of those sessions, and administered pre- and posttests to participants. They have also completed site visits to the preschools to interview teachers, conduct classroom observations, and coordinate the data collection and management of student assessment data.
Ardenia Dunlap, teacher
Many of the results have been encouraging. Professional development participants gave high ratings to the sessions they attended and felt that they were relevant and useful to their work. On average, teachers have made significant improvements in overall classroom quality, as well as on benchmarks related to literacy activities in their classrooms.
"The impact is seen in the growth of the students from year to year," says program associate Kathleen Theodore, who provides literacy professional development. "I was with this project from the beginning, and it's really exciting seeing the teachers come around and embrace change because their students are achieving. The teachers are more explicit and purposeful in planning their classroom environment and delivering meaningful conversations and instruction."