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Trust in the process: How phonics instruction is changing the game in Arizona

Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) serves a diverse student population, with a substantial Title I representation (50%-60% receiving free and reduced lunch). Recognizing gaps in their Tier 1 literacy program, especially in phonics instruction, FUSD introduced district-wide science of reading training while concurrently assessing supplemental phonics programs. This led to the district signing on to be a research site for 95 Percent Group's 95 Phonics Core Program™ during the 2022-23 academic year. Keep reading to find out how adding evidence-based phonics instruction impacted student outcomes.

Student intently reading a book, pointing to the text

District Snapshot:

  • Flagstaff, AZ–close to Navajo Reservation and Hopi Reservation
  • ~9000 students K-5 across 10 elementary schools
  • Highly diverse student population with Hispanic and American Indian/Native Alaskan students each making up almost 30% of enrolled students respectively
  • 8/10 schools are title one: 50-60% of students receive free and reduced lunch
  • Special Education: 16.5% of students
  • Limited English Proficiency: 6.3% of students

Located in North Central Arizona, Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) is also within a 200-mile radius of both the Navajo and Hopi reservations. With 10 elementary schools, FUSD elementary schools serve a largely Title I population with about 50%-60% of students receiving free and reduced lunch, and one of the ten elementary schools even offers trilingual language instruction: English, Spanish and Diné—the primary language of the Navajo.

Truth in literacy data

School leaders at FUSD understood that their Tier 1 literacy program did not have a strong phonics component. In addition to this, their aimswebPlus scores (a combination benchmark and progress monitoring tool for teachers using the MTSS/RTI approach) were showing that their elementary students had some gaps in their phonics knowledge and skill level. They needed to supplement with additional phonics instruction.

The district knew they needed a phonics supplement that would empower teachers to provide students with evidence-based instruction that is explicit, sequential, systematic, and comprehensive. Across the district, faculty began their training in the science of reading with the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling® (LETRS®) across all levels (teacher, coaches, and administrators). They knew they need best-in-class literacy tools to bring their knowledge into practice.

Soon they formed a committee and evaluated several different possibilities for a supplementary phonics program. When all committee members landed on 95 Phonics Core Program® for their K-3 classrooms, the district leaders decided to pilot the program in two schools during the 2022-23 school year.

Although they were only piloting the K-3 program, one of the reasons products by 95 Percent Group rose to the top for FUSD was because they knew they would have the option to extend with the 95 Phonics Core Program® Word Study: Grades 4&5 if they needed to.

And that made a huge difference.

Read more

Leaders and educators from Flagstaff Unified School District trusted the process when implementing 95 Phonics Core Program®. Ready to see their results?

Click the button below to download the full story and learn about their journey through structured literacy application!

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