Literacy skills of Middletown students soar 175%, despite challenges from COVID

MIDDLETOWN – Despite abnormal learning conditions during the pandemic, new data reveals that the literacy skills of students in Middletown public schools have increased significantly over the past year.

Based on the results of the standardized Outcome Improvement Monitoring System, known as AIMSweb, assessment and data compiled by the Footsteps2Brilliance app, students in the city increased their literacy skills. 175% between fall 2020 and this spring.

The results indicate significant increases for historically marginalized students in particular. Pupils who are entitled to free and reduced school meals have seen their capacities increase by 224%. Students receiving special education services saw an increase of 141 percent, and black and Latinex students saw increases of 184 and 145 percent, respectively.

Literacy skills include phonetics, phonemic awareness, reading, writing, vocabulary, comprehension, and grammar.

Superintendent Michael Conner is very pleased with the results. “We are extremely proud of our students, their families and our teachers for achieving this phenomenal increase,” he said.

Conner and other school officials attribute this increase in large part to literacy initiatives that began in 2018 and continued throughout the pandemic. All students up to grade three had access to Footsteps2Brilliance, a comprehensive, bilingual literacy app. It is accessible on any smartphone, tablet and computer, so learning was not interrupted when schools switched to a hybrid model.

Since the literacy program began, nearly 250 million words have been read by Middletown students, according to data released by Footsteps2Brilliance. The average reading comprehension score rose to 82 percent.

These sharp increases have come despite an environment that has otherwise caused a loss of learning across the country. The loss was so significant that Connecticut formed the AccelerateCT Education Task Force, made up of more than 80 teachers, administrators and school staff, students, families and advocates, to address the learning loss.

School communications director Jessica B. Lavorgna said the period of learning loss makes the numbers even more impressive. “This is certainly shocking data, especially during COVID,” she said.

In fact, the district suggested that the pandemic might be a reason literacy rates have increased, since the learning program was available online.

“While we can’t say for sure, COVID has resulted in increased academic use of electronic devices for students and their families,” Lavorgna said. “It could be a contributing factor.”

Despite the substantial improvement, Conner said the job is not done.

“No matter how impressive a raise is, there is always more work to be done,” he said. “We look forward to continuing on the upward trajectory. “

Dwight E. Schulz