J. B. Young Opportunity Center main entrance is shown Jan. 15, at 1702 N. Main Street in Davenport.

The Davenport School Board approved two contracts for professional development services to improve literacy skills this week.

The first was $39,000 to the 95% group, a consulting firm that helps districts raise test scores, and the other was $52,240 to provide 30 hours of comprehensive training in the Orton-Gillingham methodology for 60 participants.

The Issue: In the Phase II report from the state, the district was required to continue work on the disproportionality citation from the year before. According to the report, one of the strongest evidence-based practices to address achievement gaps is a “district-wide focus early literacy.”  

The Conversation: Lori Janke, a district parent, addressed the board in the open forum to advocate for the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education, or IMSE, to provide comprehensive Orton-Gillingham training for 60 staff members in the district.

“While it is a bit expensive, it also is something that, on the Iowa side for school districts, no one really else is doing,” she said.

The Orton-Gillingham is a “direct, explicit multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic and prescriptive approach to teach reading, writing and spelling,” according to the contract.

Susan Downs, interim director of exceptional education, was the one who requested the contract. She said it should help reduce the achievement gap and directly addressed the recommendation to improve early literacy in the Phase II audit.

“It’s an approach that can be adapted to any curriculum,” she said, adding that the 60 staff members who were trained could help other teachers implement the strategies too.

Associate Superintendent Bill Schneden said the district’s relationship with the 95% group had been around for several years, and credited it with the district’s accuracy scores.

The board unanimously approved both professional development contracts. Director Clyde Mayfield was not present to vote.

Next Steps: Professional development through the 95% group has been occurring for years in the district now, and will continue on throughout the school year. The special education department is working on figuring out which staff will receive Orton-Gillingham training in the summer.