‘Read Write Inc. has had a profound effect on the literacy achievements of our students; in turn this has led to benefits in students’ engagement across all learning areas.’
A Read Write Inc. Case Study from Jackie Williams; Senior Leader: Intervention and Support; Coober Pedy Area School, South Australia
Age group: Reception to Year 12 | Students on roll: 246
School context: Coober Pedy is a remote opal mining town in outback South Australia, 837 km north of Adelaide. More than sixty cultural groups are represented within the community.
Coober Pedy Area School is an inclusive and conducive learning community. We have an absolute focus on teaching and learning. High expectations and continuous improvement are at the forefront of what we do to ensure that there is achievement growth for each student.
Student demographic: Coober Pedy is a complex Category 1 school. 60% of our students are aboriginal. Low attendance remains an issue and learning outcomes have been below expectations. Due to frequent absences, many students have been well behind the age-appropriate levels of achievement expected.
When did you start teaching Read Write Inc.?
In 2018, I was asked to attend Read Write Inc. training to gain an understanding of it as a potential program for our junior school. In January 2019, all junior school teaching and support staff who would lead Read Write Inc. groups, were trained as part of our whole of district commitment to literacy improvement. We began teaching Read Write Inc. in our R-6 classes during Term 1, 2019. Establishing groups, purchasing and organising resources and supporting staff with training were initial challenges. Given these complexities, we were thrilled that at the end of our first year, we saw a 500% increase in the number of students becoming independent readers!
Why did you implement Read Write Inc.?
Read Write Inc. had been recommended to our school and district by schools who had already implemented the program. Following my initial training, our leadership team was convinced that Read Write Inc. would be an excellent solution to support the complex literacy learning needs of our challenging community. We needed a program that was structured, systematic, research based and effective. Many of our students had fallen through the cracks, due to transience, low attendance, and non-English speaking backgrounds. Turnover of teaching staff is high. Many of our teachers are graduates, and although they are enthusiastic and dedicated, they would benefit from being able to teach a structured, supported literacy program.
How would you describe the support you received before, during and after the implementation of Read Write Inc.?
We are now in our third year of teaching Read Write Inc. and the ongoing support has been outstanding.
The initial training, although of limited availability in South Australia, was greatly beneficial. The district-wide training was held within our remote region, for which we were very thankful. Ongoing support was readily available, either by phone or email
In 2019, I was fortunate enough to travel to Darwin for Reading Leader and Fresh Start training. In January 2020, I travelled to the UK with two colleagues from our district, where we attended training at the Ruth Miskin headquarters, visited several model schools and participated in development days. Hayley Goldsworthy, our Australian trainer, has been an invaluable resource throughout our journey. Now, in her new role, the level of support is exceptional. At Coober Pedy, we have regular development days, and having Hayley on-site has amplified and supported our continuing growth and success.
Further, the new Ruth Miskin On-Line training portal is an outstanding resource, that is easily accessible and well-used in our school for both individual and group training, and classroom support.
Our OUP representative has also been critical in building and supporting success. She assisted us in planning and ordering our initial resources to ensure we were able to make an effective start. We are regularly supplementing our resources and purchasing consumables, and her advice is accurate and timely, the necessary resources arriving as required.
The learning and the support received have enabled me to lead in my school and in schools across the district to enable significant and profound improvement in student literacy learning.
How has your literacy teaching and learning changed as a result of implementing Read Write Inc.?
Our literacy program is now structured and consistent across the school. All group leaders are trained in Read Write Inc. and we have weekly coaching sessions. Our students are tested every six to eight weeks and grouped by stage, not age. Our students benefit from the consistency and rigor, and they know what to expect as they move from group to group. Our teachers know exactly what to teach and how to teach it, with enthusiasm and integrity. Staff and students alike delight in observing the literacy progress of our students.
How have your students benefited from the implementation of Read Write Inc.?
Read Write Inc. has had a profound effect on the literacy achievements of our students; in turn this has led to benefits in students’ engagement across all learning areas, including improved attendance for some students. It has been incredible to observe our students during the regular testing. Our students know their sounds speedily, they decode quickly and effectively, and they read with fluency. This is a significant improvement on the results we were achieving previously when different programs and approaches were used.
Have you seen any impact on your results?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
- A 500% increase in students became independent readers in our first year, when we were still finding our way.
- A Year 6 student, who had not mastered Set 1 sounds, and who has irregular attendance, progressed to Pink Group within the first 12 months of the program.
- A Year 9 student progressed from Fresh Start Module 5 to complete the Fresh Start program in less than two terms.
- Currently, more than 90% of our Junior Primary students who are regular attenders and who do not have an identified learning difficulty, are above the expected standard for their year level.
- Our Phonics Screening Check result from 2020 showed a 40% improvement on previous years.
- Only students with identified learning difficulties or low attendance in Years 4-6 are now participating in Read Write Inc Phonics or Fresh Start programs.
- The Read Write Inc. improvement data aligns with the literacy data collected at a system level for our students.
We carefully monitor all data and jointly celebrate the success of our students and their teachers.
What would you say to other schools considering adopting Read Write Inc.?
I cannot recommend Read Write Inc. highly enough. It will require a significant investment of time, resources, training, and personnel, but the early investment will see long term rewards. It is critical to have a whole school commitment, with the leadership team driving and supporting staff. I would recommend talking to staff or parents from schools who have implemented Read Write Inc., contacting Hayley Goldsworthy, and accessing the Ruth Miskin website.
Do you have any practical tips for other schools to help them be successful?
Be prepared. Do your homework. Train as many people as is possible. Make sure that you have all the resources you need before you begin and have a system in place for their short- and long-term management. It is better to hold off and start when you are adequately prepared. Appoint a Reading Leader to oversee the implementation and management. Ensure that you include a 1:1 tutoring program so that students can keep up, not catch up, and train staff appropriately. Have regular coaching sessions for teachers and be present during lessons for encouragement and support. Be passionate, enjoy the journey and celebrate success.
Oxford University Press sincerely thanks Jackie Williams and Coober Pedy Area School for sharing their Read Write Inc. experience and insights with us.