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The West Jefferson Hills School District (WJHSD) and Amplify hosted more than 400 teachers and administrators on Monday, October 9 for the first Pennsylvania Science of Reading Educator Summit.

School teachers and administrators, gathered in the auditorium of Thomas Jefferson High School for speaker presentations.
Reading - Jason Ortitay
Pennsylvania House Representative Jason Ortitay spoke to those in attendance.
Reading- 8th Grade presentation
8th grade teachers listen to a presentation in one of the classrooms.
Pumpkin 3
Belle Vernon Public Librarian Elina Filanderer shows off one of her books she selected for story time with the children.
Reading_Dr. Pam Kastner
Dr. Pam Kastner, President of the Reading League of Pennsylvania, was a featured speaker at the event.
Reading-Change Mgmt session
A breakout session on Change Management was well attended.

Educators from 45 school districts, colleges and universities and Pennsylvania Intermediate Units gathered at Thomas Jefferson High School for the daylong event.

The workshop featured several speakers, headlined by Dr. Pam Kastner, President of the Reading League of Pennsylvania and author, Dr. Nancy Hennessy. There were breakout sessions and an opportunity to hear from WJHSD teachers leading the science-based and equitable literacy instruction. One of the sessions was on Change Management for district superintendents, principals and reading/literacy instructional coaches, led by Janise Lane from Amplify.

Amplify CEO Larry Berger spoke at the reading summit as did Pennsylvania House representative Jason Ortitay (District 46; Allegheny and Washington), who has introduced legislation with Rep. Justin Fleming (Dauphin; House Bill 998) to advance early literacy across the Commonwealth.

WJHSD Superintendent Dr. Janet Sardon and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matt Patterson opened the reading summit by welcoming the attendees, who came from as far away as Cicero, Illinois.

“The last few years were really difficult,” Berger said, referencing the disruption in education and lower test scores due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “How do we get kids to love reading? We need to create a culture where kids care about reading more. We need to give more feedback to kids.”

Included in Dr. Kastner’s presentation was a chart with U.S. Department of Education data which showed that 54% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 74 read below the equivalent of sixth grade level.

“We should not accept this as a norm,” said Kastner, referring to reading level data. “We’re life-changers as teachers. When you teach spelling, reading will improve. The choices we make (as educators) make meaningful differences for our students.”

The West Jefferson Hills SD is in its third full year of using Amplify’s Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) in grades K-5 and Amplify’s English Language Arts (ELA) in grades 6-8. In two short years, impressive gains have been noted across all grades. 

Following a pilot year in 2020-21, the district has observed increases in end of year NWEA Measure of Academic Performance (MAP) reading national percentiles. Kindergarten end of year national percentiles increased from 66 to 83 to the 98th national percentile in 2022-23. Among WJHSD’s first grade students, end of year national percentiles improved from 84 to 93 to the 95th national percentile this past year using CKLA.

An additional data point in WJHSD’s early adoption of CKLA shows that overall student proficiency among grades K-5 has significantly improved. Entering the 2021-22 school year, 50 percent of the K-5 students were at or above the reading benchmark, with 20% above the benchmark. At the end of 2022-23, 75% of district K-5 students were at or above the benchmark, with 40% above the benchmark, a 100% improvement in just two years. 

“What is happening here (WJHSD) is much talked about at Amplify,” Berger stated.

Over the past several years, more than 30 school districts from eight states have engaged with WJHSD about its CKLA and ELA curriculum implementation. During the 2023-24 school year, Armstrong, Baldwin-Whitehall, Canon-McMillan, East Allegheny, Northgate and Riverview are among the Pittsburgh-area school districts implementing the Amplify curriculum. Several other school districts in the region will be piloting the programs throughout this year.  



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