Marana Unified School District is putting an extra focus on reading this year with a new literacy program.

Vicki Pollock, a second-grade teacher at Estes Elementary, is one of many teachers in the district using the new curriculum.

“Students are really engaged with the materials that we’ve had so far. It’s only day three,” Pollock said. “So we’re still learning the routines. But we’ve been practicing our reading stamina and kind of just getting books in the kids’ hands.”

The program is aimed at increasing teach time and enhancing reading and writing support in schools throughout the district.

“It takes a lot of pressure away from the teacher too, since it’s built in,” Pollock said. “I really think that it’s going to be an amazing program for our kids. I think that they’re going to be so successful.”

“We weren’t happy with the numbers that we were seeing,” Alli Benjamin with the Marana Unified School District said. “And so we put together a very targeted effort to improve literacy rates across the district.”

Teachers now focus on reading and writing at least 135 minutes a day, up from 90 minutes. Every school also has at least one reading specialist and additional reading support staff.

“We know it’s working because we look at our data. We do assessments at regular intervals throughout the year, and we have seen continuous improvements since we’ve started these efforts,” Benjamin said.

The district is funding the initiative with ESSER funds, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds given out to schools during the pandemic.

The funding has also helped the district by funding additional teaching staff to keep class sizes at 25 students per teacher.