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At a special school-wide assembly, that doubled as a kick-off to March is Reading Month, TalentFirst leaders joined WSE principal Jennifer Knight and Otsego Superintendent Jeff Haase to praise the staff and students on their investment and commitment to early literacy by presenting them with the first Literacy Leader Award.

“We care deeply about literacy because a strong West Michigan starts with children knowing how to read,” says TalentFirst President Keven Stotts.

WSE was one of five schools across 13 counties identified by TalentFirst for its exemplary practices and accomplishment in early literacy, and was given a $1,000 grant. “Witnessing the relentless dedication of our entire staff to improve literacy achievement has been truly inspiring,” Knight says. "This recognition serves as a testament to the countless hours of hard work and commitment poured into nurturing a culture of literacy excellence.

"At Otsego Public Schools, we have an ongoing mission to ignite a lifelong love for reading in every child who walks through our doors. To say I am proud is an understatement."

State Representative Matt Hall also attended the assembly to present a special recognition to Principal Knight and the school. He also brought bookmarks for each student for reading month. 

The Literacy Leader Award highlights schools with successful implementation of research-based practices that demonstrate higher M-STEP ELA scores and/or growth, especially when outperforming peers with similar economic status..

The criteria for schools to be recognized is: 

  • Higher M-STEP scores and/or growth and outperforming peers with similar economic status

  • Implementation of the General Education Leadership Network’s Literacy Essentials

  • Ongoing professional learning on proven practices aligned with the science of reading

  • The appointment of dedicated literacy coaches in each building

  • Provision of appropriate curricula and resources with systematic phonics instruction

  • The use of formative assessments to influence instruction

  • Development of detailed school improvement plans with a focus on early literacy outcomes and district alignment among buildings on literacy strategies

TalentFirst is an alliance of West Michigan CEOs who developed the awards program following its 2023 publication of a dashboard tracking 3rd grade reading scores on the M-STEP, cross-referenced to economic status. The awards program is sponsored by TalentFirst members Autocam Medical, AMDG Architects, 42 North Partners, Metal Flow, Lorin Industries, MKO Holdings, Key Bank and Meijer.

Scott Hill, executive partner at Varnum and a member of TalentFirst’s CEO Council, attended the ceremony and congratulated the staff and students.

"We all know early literacy plays a critical role in achieving student academic success,” Hill said. “As business leaders, we are committed to partnering with schools to model strategies that lead to better outcomes for students.”

In addition to Washington Street Elementary, the other winners of the Literacy Leader Awards are:

  • Riverview Elementary, Big Rapids

  • Meadow Ridge Elementary, Rockford

  • Dutton Elementary, Caledonia

  • Lincoln Heights Elementary, Greenville

Learn more about TalentFirst on their website.

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talent first partner reveals check
talent first assembly
wse staff with check
Rep. Hall presents Mrs. Knight with recognition
talent first, wse leaders, supt. haase, rep. hall with award and check

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