We sat down with Implementation Coach Chloe Rhea Beauford to talk about the unique philosophy behind Reading Horizons pacing.
Q: Chloe, what do you tell districts that are looking for a pacing guide to accompany their Reading Horizons Discovery® elementary reading curriculum or Reading Horizons Elevate® reading intervention program?
A: I always remind districts that Reading Horizons instruction is paced to mastery, not a calendar. In fact, I tell them, if I come back to observe their classes and all of the first-grade classrooms are on the same lesson, there's probably something wrong. It is detrimental to student progress for teachers to be pushing ahead or holding their students back to meet the pace of other classes. Don’t focus on whether you've taught it, focus on if your students have learned it.
Q: Have you observed classes that attempted to keep pace with one another? What were some of the results?
A: Yes. Last year, I had a first-grade team that tried to keep pace with one another. At any given time, there was always at least one class waiting for the other classes to catch up. A certain class would take longer to master a skill, so the other teachers were stretching (or simply waiting) for the remaining class. Since they all took turns waiting at some point, they didn't get nearly as far as they expected. They also didn't get nearly as far as most of the other first-grade classes in their district. It was painful and not fluid for their instruction, schedules, or lesson plans. And that's a best-case scenario because they all kept focused on the goal to teach to mastery.
Q: Do standard pacing guides typically force classes to wait or go more slowly than they would otherwise?
A: No. In fact, most of the time, pacing guides force us to rush ahead of our students' needs. That is how we end up inadvertently widening the gaps that already exist. Often, that is how we get into a situation where, for instance, students in second grade don't know all of their letters and sounds. It's because pacing guides are built on assumptions like, “Because we're all in second grade, we all have mastery of letters and sounds.” These assumptions lead us to skip over or rush through building blocks. Mastery-based instruction is a paradigm shift that is often a big learning curve for districts.
Q: Teaching to mastery is clearly the best way to ensure we’re not leaving any student behind. So, to use your example, how can a second-grade teacher know if she/he is on track to get through all the content intended for the school year?
A: In my experience, what a second-grade class can cover in their first year varies wildly. I've worked with districts where, prior to implementing Reading Horizons reading curriculum, students did not have a firm grasp of letters and sounds, and second-grade classes had to spend a good amount of time in Chapter 1. I have worked with other districts where students did have explicit phonics instruction in the lower grades, so teachers could move through Chapter 1 quickly while still keeping a focus on mastery. Typically, if students receive daily instruction, a class will probably end somewhere in Chapters 3-5.
Q: What other factors play a role in a teacher’s comfort level in teaching to mastery?
A: Success in teaching to mastery also depends on how the teachers experience the learning curve. Factors include previous training in a marking system or explicit phonics, background knowledge, and comfort with technology.
Q: Last question! What can we suggest to teachers who are still hoping for a pacing guide?
A: Don’t give up just because this is different. Customer Success Managers and Implementation Coaches are here to help districts with their paradigm shift to mastery-based instruction.
Thanks so much for all that great information about pacing to mastery, Chloe! Pacing to mastery really allows a teacher to fill gaps in foundational skills while avoiding the pitfalls of creating new gaps by moving too quickly. If you need help pacing your classroom to mastery, call your Customer Success Manager today!
JoLynne Fisher said
Reading this makes me feel so much better about not being all the way through the alphabet in Kindergarten. We are close, but it has taken us awhile to master some important phonemic awareness skills as well as the letter sounds.