Minnesota Senate, House propose money towards LETRS literacy program
(ABC 6 News) – A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Education shows around half of Minnesota students are reading fully or partially below their grade level. Lawmakers hope a literacy program new to the state will change that.
That literacy program is called LETRS, or Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. Teachers and parents across the state say the pandemic impacted students learning, and it’s going to be an uphill battle to get kids back on track.
"Going back and trying to find — okay where is there learning at? And being able to build from there," said Randi Wood, a first-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Rochester.
When Wood found out about LETRS at the end of last year, she knew she wanted to try it out. Her training started in February and she has already seen how it works in the classroom.
"Our students who have been wearing masks for the past two and a half years in school, it’s hard for us to teach phonics when they can’t see our mouth. That’s led to some students having incorrect speech," she said.
LETRS focuses on phonics, a combination of mouth shapes and sounds, and then connects those concepts to reading.
Randi is one in a small group of teachers in Minnesota that got to join LETRS after the legislature offered it up for free in 2021. However, spots were limited.
"We had about 40+ educators in Rochester sign up for that," said Peter Dodds, who is in charge of the elementary curriculum at Rochester Public Schools.
Now, teachers and lawmakers alike want to expand access to the program. A bill passed Wednesday in the senate that puts $30 million towards providing all teachers with LETRS training.
"Kids in our schools, the teachers have been through a lot in two years. Not because of what they did, but what was done to them. What they had to respond to," said Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R – Lino Lakes), who authored the bill.
A similar House bill also directs money toward the training. The House and the Senate will meet in a conference committee in the coming weeks to decide the final amount.
Wood believes teachers did everything they could to help students through distance learning.
"It just wasn’t quite enough."
But she has faith in programs like LETRS.
"Their [students] reading alone has come a really long way."