Pilot Program for Teaching Literacy Skills to Children Expands

Merrimack College's Reading and Writing Instruction for the 21st Century pilot certificate program held at Boston Public Schools is expanding into the Merrimack Valley.

A successful pilot certificate program that shows teachers the best practices for teaching literacy skills to elementary school students is expanding. The pilot program – a partnership between Merrimack College’s School of Education and Social Policy and Boston Public Schools – will now open to all interested schools in the Merrimack Valley and beyond.

During the pilot, assistant professor of education Lisa O’Brien traveled to Boston schools once a week to coach teachers. O’Brien developed and taught the program called Reading and Writing Instruction for the 21st Century.

Unique to the 12-credit certificate program was an in-class demonstration she showed each teacher. The demonstration allowed teachers to see the techniques as they were presented to their students and ask questions in real time.

“This is about our commitment to urban education,” O’Brien said. “It’s been well received and we want to extend its reach.”

Students in urban areas often face economic challenges and they may have even greater needs requiring more skilled teachers, she said.

“I think the program aligns with our mission to help those who are disadvantaged in some way,” O’Brien said. “And literacy learning is fundamental to all education.”

O’Brien has enlisted the help of three graduate students to analyze data from the pilot which is good for research and for the school, she said.

“I think it’s an amazing program,” School of Education Associate Dean Russ Olwell said. “At Merrimack, it’s critical to involve the students in research from the beginning.”

Now that the pilot program has ended, Merrimack will expand the program into the Merrimack Valley.

Merrimack’s School of Education and Social Policy

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