Cicero School District 99 Adopts Lexia LETRS Professional Learning Programs

Teachers will gain essential expertise to ensure students are developing the literacy skills they need to be successful

Cicero School District 99 in Illinois has adopted Lexia LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) professional learning programs for its teachers and administrators. Offered by Lexia® Learning, a Cambium Learning® Group company, LETRS provides educators with the deep knowledge required to be literacy and language experts in the science of reading.

Developed by Dr. Louisa Moats and leaders in the field of literacy, the LETRS Suite provides practical support with tools that are available 24/7—online and in print. It also offers professional learning sessions led by national LETRS experts. These sessions provide classroom application examples of the learning and refine and extend participants’ understanding of the content.

Cicero SD 99 began rolling out LETRS in the second part of 2021. The district implemented two professional learning programs:

  •   LETRS for Educators
  •   LETRS for Administrators

LETRS for Educators provides the research, depth of knowledge, and capabilities for teaching literacy skills to a wide range of students. LETRS for Administrators equips instructional leaders to create systems and structures in their schools and districts for achieving high levels of academic performance and growth in literacy.

“We started very small, with a cohort of 10 people, and word of mouth spread from just those 10 people,” said Ben Zulauf, Cicero’s director of reading and language arts. He recounted that when those educators were surveyed about their training, they called for the district to make LETRS a priority and put all staffers through the programs.

The district then agreed to give a full cohort of 40 educators access to the training if there was enough interest among staffers to fill the remaining 30 spots. “We ended up having almost 90 people saying they were interested,” said Zulauf. “So, we filled the first cohort, and we created a second one. So, we have 80 people going through the professional learning program now.”

Located in a suburb of Chicago, Cicero School District 99 is a prek-8 district that encompasses 15 schools. Eighty-three percent of the student population comes from households speaking a language other than English.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive to the point that in January, I asked to send out a survey, just to our staff, to see who else would be interested,” said Zulauf. “And we have close to 200 people interested. So, we will have 120 people start training this summer and we’ll have another 40 starting in the fall.” The district’s goal is to put its approximately 500 educators and administrators through the LETRS programs in the next couple of years.

Zulauf is delighted at the rate of enrollment and what teachers have learned. “The progress we’ve made this year, I thought it would take us, two, three, maybe four years to get where we’re at,” he declared.

“We’re extremely pleased to be partnering with the educators in Cicero SD 99 to expand their understanding of the science of reading,” said Lexia Chief Learning Officer Dr. Liz Brooke. “For years, educators have received incomplete information about how students learn to read. This is a chance to redress those critical missed opportunities and share a common language and understanding of effective evidence-based literacy instruction practices so students can make greater progress faster. Because literacy can and should be for all.”

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The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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