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FWPSProud: Accelerated Reading Growth in FWPS

FWPSProud: Accelerated Reading Growth in FWPS

Many FWPS students are achieving accelerated reading growth, having already met their typical growth target for the year.

Reading fluency and comprehension skills among scholars continues to be a focus area in Federal Way Public Schools and many other districts across the nation, particularly following the challenge of remote learning. However, in many schools, we’re seeing bright spots where students are exceeding expectations. In fact, January iReady data showed that in some classes, more than half of the students are already meeting or exceeding their typical reading growth target for the year. 

Sequoyah: Keeping Reading Relevant and Engaging 

Sequoyah eighth-grade students engage in a reading activity.

Sequoyah eighth-grade students in Ms. O'Rourke's English Language Arts class engage in a reading activity.


Both the seventh and eighth-grade classes at Sequoyah Middle School are among the FWPS scholars making considerable reading progress this year. 

Seventh-grade teacher Kang shared how he’s worked to support this growth sharing, “Giving them opportunities to read every single day, not just classroom text, but any book they may be passionate about.” He continued, “So, I’m pushing them to do that and then pushing a productive struggle. Making sure they’re not just choosing the easiest text possible, but something that is going to challenge them every single day and making sure they are hitting a certain wall that they can push past through their practices.” 

For eighth-grade scholars, teacher Ms. O’Rourke reserves Mondays for more intensive reading focus. She said the Powerup Lexia app, an online tool available to teachers and scholars this year, has helped fill the skills gap for struggling students. With this technology, students can receive both teacher-led instruction and personalized lessons unique to the student’s abilities. “Powerup hits a lot of the grammar stuff that they hadn’t got previously.” In addition, students in her class read weekly and complete comprehension assessments to ensure they’re processing the text. 

Principal Sara Jackson also credits Powerup as being a huge help. She also says the no cell phone policy, student discussions, and giving students a clear idea of what they’re learning and why have helped keep students interested and engaged in class. 

Seventh-grade scholar Jose says he appreciates what he’s learning through reading, and that the selected books are relevant to what kids want to know about. “The book we’re reading is about working conditions. We want to know what the working conditions are, and what will happen if we keep on working under those conditions.” 

He then shared his best thoughts on why his class has made such great reading progress. “Mr. Kang working with the students [has] great chemistry and we are good as a team ... the students are doing a good job learning in each class also.” 

Kang followed up by giving credit to students. “It’s just the kids. It’s not really anything I did. These kids are going to learn, and they’re always enthusiastic every single time.” 

Silver Lake: Data-Informed Interventions


Students at Silver Lake Elementary are also thriving in reading with supportive scaffolding. 

Fifth-grade teacher Ms. West-Wallace emphasized the importance of small groups for skill-building and using exit tickets as a daily method for accountability and gathering data. With exit ticket information, West-Wallace says she can identify gaps in student progress quicker, and therefore, re-evaluate small groups and focus areas. 

Silver Lake fourth-grade teacher Nicole McCarthy feels the school’s cohesive teaching team plays an integral role in supporting scholar reading growth. Like other schools in the district, the school provides MTSS (multi-tiered systems of support) and has been focusing on Tier 2, or targeted and differentiated instruction. The goal is to either fill in the gaps or extend the work. 

When speaking to the students of Ms. West-Wallace and Ms. McCarthy, it seems their achievements were byproducts of a well-designed system. “I think one thing that starts us off strong is me and my teammates work really well together. We both bring a lot of great ideas to try and we’re both open to trying each other’s ideas, including sharing kids and trying routines, McCarthy notes. “I think that, together, we just set up really strong routines for the class and then are able to figure out where the kids are and where to go next.” 

At the start of the 2023-24 school year, Federal Way Public Schools launched the adopted Wonders K-5 ELA curriculum in K-2 classrooms at elementary schools and piloted in 3-5 classrooms. This program combines reading, writing, speaking, and listening to improve literacy. Fifth-grade student Kimberly is in Ms. West-Wallace's class and describes ELA and reading as fun. “I like all the stories, and I like to write in the books.” She says her class has been learning about different elements of books, including theme, characters, perspective, and more. Kimberly says these activities have helped her read better. 

“I’m amazed with my students,” Ms. West-Wallace shared. “I have had the joy of getting to work with them as fourth graders and now as fifth graders, so getting to see their growth just bloom has been an amazing thing. I’ve seen their confidence grow in finding text evidence, being able to write it down, communicate it, and getting to see and celebrate that with them with everything they’ve accomplished. It’s been a complete joy as an educator.” 


Wildwood: Meeting Students Where They’re At 

Fifth-grade teacher Sarah Stock at Wildwood Elementary has focused on goal setting, both with scholars and families. She asks students, “Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How will you get there?”  

Stock works with her grade-level Professional Learning Community (PLC) to discuss data and lessons daily – both formally and informally. “We discuss what is working and what is not, and plan intentionally to fill the gaps.” Some interventions include targeted small-group instruction based on the five pillars of literacy instruction.  

During our visit, students in Stocks’ class were reading a book about Jackie Robinson. They began their lesson by learning about some of the words used in the book. Stocks asked if students were familiar with the word and asked them to guess the definition before sharing the meaning from the dictionary. Students were then encouraged to draw a picture to help them remember the definition. By the time they launched into reading, scholars were ready to comprehend the full story. Katelynn, a fifth-grade scholar in Stocks class shared how important reading is saying, “It helps you with words and it helps you with writing. We learn a lot of words, almost every day.” 

Stocks also mentioned family involvement as a key factor that has helped students develop strong reading skills. She makes sure families are aware of their child’s reading level and how it compares to grade level. “I work with them on how to best support their child at home and strongly encourage students to read in their home language. Most parents are surprised to learn that this will help them read in English as well.” 

Cathy Lee-Springer, another third-grade teacher notes the importance of engaging students by encouraging them to read about topics they love. She sets the example by sharing her best picks and ensuring students have time to read alone in small groups. She also reminds students of their capabilities – Lee-Springer's students are taught the difference between “can’t” and “not yet.” 

“I have been teaching for over 30 years and I have rarely seen this amount of growth. I am super excited and proud of the students. I knew they could do it if they put their minds to it. I let them know it was all them!” 


Reading Support in FWPS


FWPS has many interventions and resources in place to support student reading. In elementary school, all K-3 scholars receive explicit phonics instruction through Wilson Fundations, scholars apply these phonics skills in Great Minds’ Geodes in grades K-2. All K-5 scholars engage in an adaptive learning program, Lexia CORE 5 that individualizes instruction to fill gaps and extend learning. The teacher uses this data for targeted small-group instruction. 

In secondary schools, scholars have access to Lexia Powerup which provides targeted foundational reading skills, grammar, and comprehension. Like Lexia CORE 5, Powerup individualizes instruction to fill gaps and extend learning. The teacher uses this data for targeted small-group instruction.

Continued Professional Learning in Evidence-Based Reading Approaches  

In the 2022-23 school year FWPS launched professional learning for all K-3 Literacy Development Teachers and Interventionists in evidence-based reading approaches. Staff participate in a course that supports best practices in literacy instruction. In 2023-2024 this learning was expanded to include all instructional coaches and teacher leaders. This learning will continue to be a foundation component of our five-year literacy planning.