Setting a New Vision for California’s Literacy Instruction
The Early Successes of Pivot Learning’s First Early Literacy Planning and Implementation Collaborative (ELPIC)
In early 2021, Pivot Learning and CORE Learning were contracted by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) to support 73 of the 75 California schools identified as in need of support due to their students’ low reading performance. To support these schools, we launched our new, network-based Early Learning Planning and Implementation Collaborative (ELPIC): a learning series on the foundations of literacy and assessment that culminated with the development of a clear, actionable, and educator-informed plan for improving literacy—a Literacy Action Blueprint.
To support literacy groups in developing these personalized blueprints for their school sites, our work began with three sessions focused on evidence-based reading instruction and assessment. The school teams then shifted to root cause analyses, where educators examined their school’s data and practices in light of what they learned about evidence-based reading instruction. Beginning with this analysis before focusing on solutions increased transparency, collaboration, and buy-in.
Monica Ng, former Vice President of Education Services at Pivot Learning, explained that the support we provide school teams centers on the idea that with greater knowledge of evidence-based reading practices, educators can make impactful changes in their classrooms. She stressed the importance of educators taking an active role in creating literacy action plans for their school sites, rather than having outsiders tell them what they should or should not do. “We did things with them, not to them,” said Ng.
After developing a baseline of their school’s needs, each team developed a unique literacy action plan to address the root causes they identified. The plans focused on instruction as the opportunity to impact outcomes. While the plans varied from school to school, all of them focused on using high-impact, evidence-based strategies to improve reading instruction—and all of the 73 schools’ plans were approved and funded by the state.
One school that participated in Pivot/CORE’s ELPIC work was McKinley Elementary in San Jose, CA. Principal Daniel Dennedy-Frank reflected on the importance of educators having autonomy over their literacy plans. “McKinley is unique because we are the only school in our district that qualifies for the ELSB grant. While it’s provided to the district and with district support, our site team has had an incredible amount of discretion and autonomy in defining the plans specifically for our site,” said Dennedy-Frank. “Because the teachers were involved in creating the plan, they feel like it’s their own plan. With that, I think there’s a strong level of buy-in, and hopefully a lot of people will develop the natural leadership that comes with that over time.”
When completing their needs assessment, Dennedy-Frank worked with his literacy team to investigate historical data and discuss with teachers why they might be getting those results. Anchoring their thoughts in data and knowledge about the science of reading made coming up with solutions more effective. McKinley’s literacy plan emerged to focus on defining their literacy block. The major goals of McKinley’s literacy plan centered on student growth and building teacher knowledge.
“Our core program just wasn’t clearly defined,” explained Dennedy-Frank. “Cohesion was difficult and teacher skill levels were in such hugely different places.” Without a clear sense of their approach to literacy, teachers were left to bring their own tools and approaches, which led to a fragmented experience for students. Defining their literacy block together helped teachers to align on their approaches. McKinley’s plan also included developing an assessment system so that they could effectively keep track of student growth.
Reflecting on his experience with Pivot and CORE, Dennedy-Frank appreciated the support and personalized feedback that his school received. “The facilitators were great. I think that it was very comprehensible and effective,” Dennedy-Frank said. “It’s also an impossible job. Because different schools and different districts really are in different places. How do you support that work when you’re dealing with sites that have such different models and need such different things?”
By allowing districts to lead the analyses of their school sites and providing targeted support along the way, Pivot and CORE was able to support schools who dealt with a variety of root cause issues and who came up with a diverse range of literacy action plans as a result.
“I think that’s why we haven’t had more pushback,” said Dennedy-Frank, explaining how teachers have taken an active role in their literacy plans. “Teachers feel like they have that sense of buy-in.”
Pivot Learning and CORE are currently offering ELPIC services to networks in new states, expanding on our early successes to support schools across the country in developing Literacy Action Blueprints that will support their educators’ instruction and their students’ improvement in reading.
In the 2021-22 and the 2022-23 school years, Pivot and CORE are also supporting a subset of California schools with follow-on literacy services, including professional learning, administrator support, and project management services.
To learn more about ELPIC services or to request support in your state, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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