Announcing the first winners of the Talent First Literacy Leader Awards

NEWS RELEASE: TalentFirst today named five West Michigan elementary schools as the first recipients of its Literacy Leader Award, recognizing excellence in early literacy instruction and accomplishment.

At a series of award ceremonies leading into March — National Reading Month — each school will be recognized and presented with a check for $1,000. The award program is sponsored by TalentFirst members Autocam Medical, AMDG Architects, 42 North Partners, Metal Flow, Lorin Industries, MKO Holdings, Key Bank and Meijer.

“At a time when Michigan is facing a crisis in early literacy, these schools stand apart,” said TalentFirst President Kevin Stotts. “Their success sets a powerful example. By relying on evidence-based teaching methods, they are preparing students for lifelong success.”

The winning schools and ceremony dates are:

  • Riverview Elementary, Big Rapids (Feb. 26)
  • Washington Street Elementary, Otsego (Feb. 27)
  • Meadow Ridge Elementary, Rockford (Feb. 28)
  • Dutton Elementary, Caledonia (March 4)
  • Lincoln Heights Elementary, Greenville (March 6)

TalentFirst developed the Literacy Leader Awards program following its publication in 2023 of a dashboard tracking third-grade reading scores on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), cross-referenced to economic status, for nearly every elementary school in the state.

Although statewide 2022-23 M-STEP results showed only 40.9% of third-graders scored proficient or advanced for reading, the data had some bright spots. To those highlight schools setting a positive example, TalentFirst worked with a trained literacy coach and field instructor to set the following criteria:

  • Higher M-STEP scores and/or growth and outperforming peers with similar economic status
  • Implementation of the General Education Leadership Network’s Literacy Essentials
  • Ongoing professional learning on proven practices aligned with the science of reading
  • The appointment of dedicated literacy coaches in each building
  • Provision of appropriate curricula and resources with systematic phonics instruction
  • The use of formative assessments to influence instruction
  • Development of detailed school improvement plans with a focus on early literacy outcomes and district alignment among buildings on literacy strategies

“These schools deserve to be celebrated,” Stotts said. “Children must master literacy in early elementary grades if they are to graduate high school ready for college and career — that’s why TalentFirst has set a goal that 80% of 3rd graders are proficient in reading. As we continue working with educators toward that goal, we want to recognize those schools that demonstrate excellence.”

“We all have something to learn from these schools and their students,” said Leslie Brown, chair of MetalFlow and a member of TalentFirst’s CEO Council. “When we prepare children to read proficiently by third grade, we are setting the stage for their academic and lifelong success. That’s how we ensure a strong and vibrant future for West Michigan.”

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