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How the Read2Succeed Tutoring Program Supports Its Youngest Readers with SIPPS

An Interview with Elizabeth Conrad of Read2Succeed, Orange County Public Schools

Elizabeth Conrad shares about her work as a Senior Administrator for Read2Succeed (R2S), a tutoring program that supports Orange County Public Schools  students who need extra assistance to develop their literacy skills in kindergarten, first, and second grades. Read2Succeed strives to foster a love of reading, sharpen reading skills, and build student self-confidence. Collaborative Classroom is honored to be involved in Read2Succeed through the use of our SIPPS® (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) program to support kindergarteners and their R2S tutors in providing explicit reading instruction.

Tell us a little about yourself, your district, and the students that you serve.

My name is Elizabeth Conrad and I am a Senior Administrator for Read2Succeed. I work for Orange County Public Schools, which is a very large district in Florida, with 140 elementary and K–8 schools.  

Read2Succeed started about 22 years ago in partnership with the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools (FOCPS)​​ and began as a program to connect people in the community that wanted to help kids read. Originally, we matched a caring volunteer with students in first and second grade, and they would read together in the library. 

We now serve 1500 kindergarten, first, and second-grade students at over 100 elementary schools. Our tutors are recruited, trained and then matched with students at participating OCPS schools. Tutors utilize a highly effective step-by-step curriculum that incorporates pre- and post-tests to monitor student progress weekly throughout the school year.

The success of the Read2Succeed program has helped us access national and local funding, allowing us to continue growing.  

Tell us about the Read2Succeed kindergarten program. How did it begin? How does it use SIPPS

Previously, we had tried to expand the Read2Succeed program beyond first and second grade and into the intermediate grades, but then we realized we could have a greater impact if we started with our younger students earlier.

So in 2020-2021, we decided to add kindergarten to Read2Succeed to maximize the program’s impact. We targeted students who were below the state requirement for being kindergarten ready based on FLKRS (Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener), which is required at the beginning of the year. 

We chose SIPPS as our new curriculum to support these kindergarteners and our tutors in providing explicit reading instruction. We started with 6 schools the first year and increased to 20 schools in the 2021–2022 school year.  For the kindergarten program, we hired certified teachers (often retired teachers) and even encouraged and supported them in becoming reading-endorsed. 

To meet the recommended guidelines for implementing SIPPS, tutors work with students four days a week for 30 minutes, with each tutor working from 9–2 on those days. Our goal is to serve as many kindergarten students at each school as possible. Across the day, tutors use SIPPS Beginning Level lessons with a group of 4 students and serve about 25 kindergartners at each school for the year. 

How do you provide SIPPS professional learning and other forms of support to the Read2Succeed kindergarten tutors?

In addition to a SIPPS Beginning kit, each tutor participates in professional learning across the year. We provide four virtual training sessions that help the tutors stay on track with the program and make strong instructional decisions. The support has helped the tutors do an amazing job, and the original six tutors became even stronger in year two.  

This year (2022–23) we are able to offer all SIPPS tutors in-person learning. These offerings include both virtual and face-to-face learning sessions, in-person side-by-side coaching, and our tutors will engage in Collaborative Coach (asynchronous, personalized, instructional coaching) for the first time.

We also support the tutors and students by providing other materials. Each student receives a folder filled with copies of the 55 SIPPS Little Book stories, sight word dictionary, and sound wall cards. The tutor can send stories home when they are ready and encourage students to continue reading them at home.

Across the year, students receive five books to take home to support reading practice and continue the newfound excitement for reading. Each group has magnetic whiteboards and letters for students to practice writing during Guided Spelling and beyond. Some tutors used the SIPPS Trace and Write books along with extra provided materials that students interact with when the tutor is able to provide additional individual support.  

Each tutor received a book rack of 20 easy-to-read books and wooden boards with letters as well as a wooden stylus for tracing. Additionally, we provided each tutor a bag of miscellaneous prizes and reward punch cards to use to help keep students motivated and excited.

How has the SIPPS kindergarten program impacted students and teachers?

Wow! It has made a huge impact.

For student data, we created a document for each student where we record the original FLKRS score, number of letter names known on the initial assessment, and their entry point lesson in SIPPS. We also record SIPPS Mastery Test information for each of the six Mastery Tests. This allows us to monitor the progress of students to see how far they get in the program. This year, many students made it through all 55 SIPPS Beginning lessons, mastering all of the kindergarten foundational skills!

In addition to SIPPS data, our district tracks progress monitoring data three times a year. During the 2021–22 school year, progress monitoring data showed that 97.3% of the kindergartners who participated in our OCPS Read2Succeed Program utilizing SIPPS showed growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

During the 2021–22 school year, progress monitoring data showed that 97.3% of the kindergartners who participated in our OCPS Read2Succeed Program utilizing SIPPS showed growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

What are your plans for the future of Read2Succeed? What are you most excited about as you think about expanding? 

For the 2022–2023 school year, we had a chance to apply for a district grant to support expansion of the program. The grant is allowing us to bring in more tutors and more materials for support. 

As we look for more tutors, our stance is (and has always been) that we would not turn away anyone who was interested and passionate about this work. We knew we could find them a school that was eager for support and would provide a space for the tutor and students to work.

This year we will continue to have 50+ tutors that are certified teachers, many of whom are retired teachers. 

Finally, and perhaps most exciting of all, we are training additional tutors that are part of the School of Teacher Education program at the University of Central Florida (UCF). We partnered with UCF and recruited future teachers for this work who were passionate and excited about working with our students.

This partnership with UCF allows the college students to work in their future field and learn about foundational reading instruction.

This partnership with UCF allows the college students to work in their future field and learn about foundational reading instruction. We are providing extra learning opportunities to make sure they are supported. Orange County is excited about how this will impact our district as these UCF students graduate and hopefully work in our schools.

What would you share with other districts that are considering supporting their youngest readers through tutoring?  What do you consider to be the key factors that have contributed to the success of Read2Succeed’s expansion to support kindergarteners? 

First of all, you need a solid curriculum, especially when teaching foundational skills to our youngest readers. That is where the explicit reading instruction found within SIPPS has really shined for us. 

You need a solid curriculum, especially when teaching foundational skills to our youngest readers. That is where the explicit reading instruction found within SIPPS has really shined for us. 

Secondly, having the right person in the tutoring position is very important. You need people who are passionate about helping kids and passing on a love of reading. A top goal of Read2Succeed is to have fun with the kids. Our tutors all work to make this fun and exciting for our kids. For example, one of our tutors had a cupcake celebration when her students got to Lesson 30 and again at Lesson 50.

As we expand for the 2022–2023 school year, I have thought a lot about how to have more of the right people. I have realized that it is great to have certified teachers, but we can also do this with college students who are pursuing education degrees. We can get them connected to SIPPS, help them understand foundational reading instruction, and get them working with kids. Education majors are very excited to teach, and we want to add to that excitement!