Fulton County Schools inks $3.2M contract for staff literacy training

Fulton County Schools will spend millions training teachers and other staffers on the science of reading.

The board recently approved a one-year, $3.26 million contract to implement the professional development program Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS.

The district aims to train more than 3,000 teachers, principals and central office administrators. It is one of the first steps in Fulton’s $90 million, three-year “Every Child Reads” plan to help students who fell behind during the pandemic and to build a culture around literacy.

The project will be paid for with federal stimulus dollars. The district expects staff training to occur through a mix of in-person and online instruction.

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School officials said teachers will learn the best ways to teach reading by focusing on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension as well as writing, spelling, and oral language.

“Teachers will learn how to teach the concepts, implement instructional routines and activities, how to differentiate instructions to meet the literacy needs of all students,” said Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones at a board meeting earlier this month. “And school leaders will also complete the training to learn how best to support the teachers and students during this journey.”

About 70 district leaders, including the superintendent, are expected to begin a one-year training program next month.

An estimated 600 principals and other elementary, middle and high school leaders will start in August and complete the training by January 2023.

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The district will wait until the middle of the upcoming school year to begin training teachers. In January, 2,500 elementary school teachers will start a two-year professional development program.

The schedule was created to give teachers and students several months to reacclimate to in-person learning, Superintendent Mike Looney told board members. Some students haven’t been on campus since spring 2020.

During that first semester, other work related to the literacy project will continue, Looney said.

“Teachers are trying to get ahead of the curve right now, and they are learning on their own,” he said.