Robbinsdale Area Schools

Award benefits learners at Lakeview, Sonnesyn – and beyond

In recent years Robbinsdale Area Schools (Rdale) has invested deeply in professional development called Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling – better known as LETRS.

LETRS focuses on giving teachers a “deep understanding of the processes and science” of how children learn to read. A new grant award will allow two Rdale schools, Lakeview and Sonnesyn, to go even deeper and develop teaching and techniques that can then be shared across the district.

One of the largest grants ever made by the Ciresi Walburn Foundation, the award of $450,000 over three years is not to the schools themselves but to ServeMN, which administers AmeriCorps programs including Minnesota Reading Corps. The goal of the funded project is to improve student literacy and literacy instruction – with results the foundation expects to share and replicate.  

Bridget Hall, who was Lakeview’s principal for six years and now serves as Rdale’s director of curriculum, is enthusiastic about the opportunities the grant brings to the district. She says the funding will bring “another person to the classroom all day who becomes part of the tapestry – an additional adult from morning meeting through the end of the day. That person will be planning with the teacher and bringing in a toolkit with strategies that support reading.” 

Hall notes that “learning to read is like learning code,” and that teachers use specialized skills to teach that code. “This partnership will allow us to give teachers extra help to become more confident and competent in teaching the science of reading.” She adds that as the three years of the grant funding continue, “we will start to learn how we can replicate this model – which I believe will succeed – with our own staffing and budget.”

Rdale worked with Ciresi Walburn and ServeMN over several months to create this project. Staff and programming will come through ServeMN and will:

  • Embed trained, supported tutors in select K-3 classrooms in the two schools to work with students who need extra support learning to read
  • Help schools and teachers use data to improve instructional practices
  • Strengthen literacy instruction practices for teachers with focus on what is known as the science of reading.

The Ciresi Walburn Foundation noted in a press release that “the goal of the partnership is to dramatically improve literacy for students in a set of classrooms within Robbinsdale schools.” They added that they expect the collaboration to “elevate reading achievement scores and provide a ‘proof point’ for what’s possible with a diverse population of students and a blueprint for how that success is achieved.”

In other words, while Lakeview and Sonnesyn are the first schools in the district to benefit from this project, they probably won’t be the last.