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MASA Leader - Fall 2016

MASA Feature Time is of the essence. With only 46% of Michigan third-graders proficient on the M-STEP this year, and with Michigan ranking in the bottom 10 states for literacy on the 2015 Fourth Grade NAEP (Michigan Achieves! 2016 Michigan State of Education Report by The Education Trust Midwest; https:// midwest.edtrust.org/michiganachieves), it is time for educators to work together to improve outcomes for students. A group of stakeholders in Michigan came together to do just that. The results will instill confidence in educational leaders that strong guiding documents and a plan for support are available. Collective impact (Kania & Kramer, 2011) is a framework to tackle deeply complex, broad-scale initiatives in an innovative, structured approach to cross-sector collaboration resulting in lasting change. Successful collective impact relies upon intentional collaboration, a common agenda, consistent measures of progress, communication systems, and an organizational structure. The Early Literacy Task Force, convened by the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators General Education Leadership Network (GELN) is a great example of collective impact in action. In less than one year, the Early Literacy Task Force has assembled key stakeholders and is launching a plan to deliver on its goals in support of early literacy in Michigan. When the Michigan Department of Education released grant opportunities for each intermediate school district in the state to hire a literacy coach and create professional learning opportuni-ties in literacy, GELN recognized the 20 MASA LEADER • Fall 2016 Creating a System to Positively Impact Early Literacy By Nell Duke, Ed.D., Naomi Norman, Susan Townsend, and Tanya Wright, Ph.D. need to convene key stakeholders. GELN determined to focus on increasing reading achievement for Michigan’s students, developing quality literacy instructional practices in the classroom, and underscoring the necessity of making literacy a focal point of policy and funding support. GELN Early Literacy task force formally launched in December 2015 under the direction of co-chairs Naomi Norman and Susan Townsend. The group included representatives from K-12, ISDs, educational organizations, and higher education. Initially, the task force addressed the effective deployment of early literacy grants and recommended strategies for developing a collaborative statewide network of support for early literacy. The task force identified and prioritized early literacy needs into four emerging areas that focused the work: instructional practices, professional learning, systems building, and communication and logistics. Once priorities were identified, literacy researchers Nell Duke, Ed.D., University of Michigan, and Tanya Wright, Ph.D., Michigan State University, began devel-oping two documents for the Task Force: Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy: Prekindergarten and Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy K to 3. Introduction to Documents and Key Elements The Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy: Prekindergarten and Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy: K to 3 focus on a small set of research-supported literacy instructional practices. We believe that the use of these practices in every classroom every day could make a measurable positive differ-ence in the state’s literacy achievement. For example, Essential Instructional Practice #2 for prekindergarten calls for “Read aloud with reference to print.” The document explains that this involves daily read-alouds with verbal and non-verbal strategies for drawing children’s attention to print and lists five examples of such strategies. Research suggests that print-referencing read alouds can foster literacy development (Justice & Ezell, 2002; Justice, McGinty, Piasta, Kaderavek, & Fan, 2010). In developing the documents, we drew heavily on relevant research. As we define it, research is systematic collection and analysis of data in answer to a question. Research is designed so that multiple answers are possible, including answers that the researcher did not expect. Just because something is written in a book or by someone at a university does not necessarily make it research or even research-informed. We drew heavily on actual research, much as would be expected in other fields, such as medicine or environmental science. We chose our words carefully both to stay as tight to the research as possible and to make sure the documents remained accessible to a wide range of readers. For example, in “The teacher avoids attempting to incentivize reading through non-reading-related prizes such as stickers, coupons, or toys . . . ,” we were


MASA Leader - Fall 2016
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