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Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 13th

posted May 13, 2018, 8:16 PM by Courtney Richardson
Implementing and Sustaining Large Scale Change 

We know that major changes in education take three to five years. Change is not an event. Instead it is a process that requires a sustained focus and team effort. This has been the mantra of the leadership team in the San Jose Unified School District as educators in the district finish year four of a multi-year early literacy initiative in 27 schools. The initiative has included implementation of small group guided reading using Jan Richardson’s Next Step Forward as a guide.
This process began in January, 2015 when district leaders began to develop and articulate a new vision for what early literacy instruction in K-1 classrooms should look like. This included working closely with a consultant and team of teachers in one school. By late that spring, a vision for instruction and a long-term plan for professional learning had evolved. 
This plan included the following research-based principles (Hall & Hord, 2015):
Sustained focus on the vision 
Involvement and support of educators at all district and building levels
Investment in professional learning experiences
Opportunities to check progress
Continuous assistance
Context of supportive change.

While all these principles are important, “continuous assistance” has been a primary focus of the district leadership team—providing ongoing support for professional learning at all levels. For example, each school team, consisting of a principal, instructional coach, k-1 classroom teachers and intervention specialists, has the opportunity to engage in professional learning experiences with an external literacy consultant for the first two years of implementation. These experiences include:
•  A week-long summer institute with demonstration lessons and opportunities to plan and teach
•  Three full-day site visits (over two school years)
•  Multiple conference calls focused on discussing student data and questions about implementation of guided reading.
The school team also receives ongoing district support, which includes the following:
•  A cadre of early literacy coaches visiting for a week at a time to support teachers’ implementation of collaborative literacy experiences that occur during small group reading instruction
•  District leaders (including administrators and district-level coaches) visit to walk-through classrooms and provide feedback.
•  The district has made coaching cycles focused on early literacy instruction a primary focus for the building site coaches.
Continuous support has been provided for district leaders as well—with the consultant and through ongoing conversations that allow the team to revise or adjust plans based on their observations in the schools. Also, implementation has been supported by gradually bringing schools on board. Each summer a select number of schools have been invited to begin this process so that there is capacity for supporting all of the schools over time.
The results of this approach to implementing change are apparent at many levels. In addition to quantifiable improved reading achievement, there has been a change in the learning environment in many classrooms. During walk-throughs in classrooms during the literacy block, leadership team members observe students collaborating with each other, talking about their learning—what they are doing and why. When you walk into a classroom, kids walk up to you and say, “I’m a reader. Can I read to you?” 

Written by: Rachel Powell, Manager, Curriculum Instruction, and EL Services PreK-5
San José Unified School District