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    ILA's Latest Brief Helps Literacy Coaches Choose the Right Instructional Model

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Mar 14, 2018

    March briefNot all models of literacy coaching are the same; “There are choices, and the choices matter,” according to ILA’s latest brief, Literacy Coaching for Change: Choices Matter. Drawing these meaningful distinctions can help teachers and coaches to make an informed decision on the most suitable model.

    With the ever-increasing emphasis on reading achievement in today’s schools, many districts are hiring literacy coaches to support teachers. The past two decades have given rise to a wave of major federal and state literacy initiatives that have significantly accelerated the expansion of coaching programs across the United States.

    The growth in the scale and diversity of instructional programs has engendered a critical need to define the varying roles and responsibilities of the literacy coach. Although each literacy coach–teacher relationship may have its nuances, the brief says three models of coaching for change are worth noting in detail: coaching to conform, coaching into practice, and coaching for transformation:

    • When coaching to conform, the coach provides expertise and direction on how to implement the features of a program under adoption.    
    • The coach assuming a practice perspective supports teachers in understanding classroom experiences, focusing on students as “the context for teaching growth through reflection.”
    • When aiming for transformation, the coach creates spaces where teachers can challenge their own practices as well as the historical power structures that operate within schools.

    The brief then provides guidance on how to choose a coaching model that’s in line with the teacher’s ideological beliefs, context, and goals. The International Literacy Association further conceptualizes the role of coaches and other specialized literacy professionals in Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Arming Teachers Is Not a Solution to Stop Gun Violence in Schools

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | Mar 07, 2018

    armingteachers1The prevalence of school shootings in the United States underscores an urgent and, so far, unmet need of devising comprehensive measures that protect students, teachers, and staff in education spaces.

    While the specifics of those measures are, and ought to be, open to fair debate, the notion that arming teachers is the best answer to preventing recurrences of this type of tragedy is preposterous.

    We are already seeing action. State lawmakers across the country have introduced legislation specifically prohibiting classroom teachers from carry guns, such as in New York. And, earlier this week, the Florida state Senate took action to halt the movement toward arming classroom educators. 

    Teaching and security enforcement are two different roles. Combining them is impractical and unwise, even if proposed with the best of intentions. The challenges of effective literacy instruction for students are formidable enough. Neither teachers, nor students, should have to wrestle with the distraction of gun-equipped classrooms.

    Everyone deserves to feel safe in the classroom. Teachers need to give their full attention and effort to each day’s learning. They need schools unfettered by violence. What we are hearing from our members and other educators is that introducing weapons into the teacher-student relationship shatters any shared sense of safety and security.

    Talk to literacy teachers and you will quickly find out how precious a commodity their instructional time is, and how demanding a preparation is required for them to be at their most effective in the classroom. Asking teachers to learn how to use weapons, arm themselves, and undertake security enforcement roles while teaching is not only burdensome, distracting, and education-impairing, it’s downright dangerous.

    To place on teachers the additional responsibility of having to use deadly physical force against an armed assailant who has managed to enter school grounds with lethal ordinance distorts and perverts the teaching function. It further puts teachers and students at risk as shown by instances where weapons have accidently or, at times intentionally, been misused.

    It also gives would-be assailants the ultimate and undeserved victory of making schools a weapons-based environment.

    This is hardly the legacy that teachers and students at schools which have had to contend with episodes of gun violence would wish for. We owe it to them and to ourselves to do much better than that.

    The International Literacy Association denounces the very idea of arming classroom teachers. Yes, we should talk about how we can increase safety of school perimeters. Yes, we should talk about resources to help early identification and treatment for mental health issues. And yes, we need better communication and coordination between the agencies we have in place to protect us.

    That’s why ILA calls upon government officials, federal and local authorities, and school officials to fashion security measures for the nation’s schools that preserve safe learning spaces by keeping the instruments of violence out of them, save for those possessed by law enforcement officers.

    Many commentators on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy have noted the maturity and eloquence of the school’s students whom they have spoken with on the air. The students are indeed striking examples of the poignancy and power that literacy education instills.

    We’re proud of these students and proud of their teachers. We want to see a solution for school security that supports without diminishing the focused learning opportunities they have enjoyed and leveraged to such an impressive effect.

    Marcie Craig Post is the executive director of the International Literacy Association (ILA).

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    ILA's Latest Brief Helps Educators Explain Phonics Instruction to Families

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Feb 20, 2018

    Explaining Phonics InstructionDespite ongoing debates over how to teach reading, research has proven that phonics instruction is an essential element of a comprehensive literacy program, according to ILA’s latest brief, Explaining Phonics Instruction: An Educator’s Guide. Phonics helps students to learn the written correspondences between letters, patterns of letters and sounds, leading to word knowledge.

    “Because phonics is often students’ first experience with formal literacy instruction,” states the brief, “families might be anxious about their children’s learning.” Educators can assuage these concerns by answering families’ questions and by providing effective at-home learning activities.

    The brief shares research-based insights to explain the what, the when and the how of phonics instruction to noneducators, providing guidance on phonics for emerging readers, phonological awareness, the layers of writing, word study instruction, approaches to teaching phonics and teaching English learners.

    Key takeaways include the following:

    • Students should have acquired phonological awareness, concepts of print, concepts of word of text and alphabetic principles before beginning to learn phonics.
    • Most phonics programs incorporate both analytic and synthetic activities.
    • Word study is an approach to teach the alphabetic layer (basic letter–sound correspondences) and pattern layer (consonant–vowel patterns) of the writing system by including spelling instruction that is differentiated by students’ development.
    • Phonics instruction depends on the characteristics of a specific language; students who learn to read in multiple languages apply phonics that fit the respective letter–sound, pattern, and meaning layers.
    • Emergent bilingual readers and writers use their knowledge of one language to learn other languages.

    To read more, visit the brief here

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    A Pathway to Equity: Resources for Administrators

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Feb 01, 2018

    administratorsMore than ever, administrators who are passionate, knowledgeable, and advocates for literacy are needed in our schools and districts. According to ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, more than 81% of literacy/instructional coaches and 76% of reading/literacy specialists said the topic of Administrators as Literacy Leaders is extremely or very important to them. Results show a desire for more preparation and knowledge for wider support and involvement across communities.

    Principals and administrators provide direction and guidance in communities worldwide, setting both the standards to which teachers aspire and the goals for students to meet. They influence curriculum and instruction, hiring and training practices, resource allocations, discipline policies, and more—elements of school culture that promote literacy and educational equity. Without their support, even the most competent and ambitious educators will find it difficult—if not impossible—to bring about meaningful change.

    ILA West 2018 attendees will participate in focused, hands-on, workshop-style sessions to address issues of equity in education and discuss how to bridge the opportunity gap for historically underserved students. As we count down to the event, administrators can gear up with the free online resources below:

    • Last April, ILA conducted an #ILAchat on “Literacy Begins With Leadership.” Hosted by superintendents Glenn Robbins and Randy Ziegenfus, participants discussed the value of administrators as literacy leaders in communities and schools. The conversation is archived on Storify.
    • The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development compiled a list of articles, webinars, and other online learning resources that school leaders can use to promote a positive school climate and school culture.
    • Launched by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the Digital Equity Action Toolkit for district leaders aims to help district leaders develop thoughtful and measured strategies to narrow the digital divide in their communities.
    • Building and Sustaining Talent: Creating Conditions in High-Poverty Schools That Support Effective Teaching and Learning, a report published by the Education Trust, describes the urgency of making low-income, low-performing schools attractive workplaces, and how some schools and districts are doing it.
    • Responding to Hate and Bias at School and Speak Up at School, two free booklets published by Teaching Tolerance, provide direction for administrators and educators trying to build an inclusive, affirming school climate.
    • Closing the Gap: Creating Equity in the Classroom, a report by Hanover Research, provides strategies, resources, and tools to help district leaders craft schoolwide reform efforts that address academic expectations, access to learning opportunities, high-quality instruction, resource allocation, and accountability to achieve educational equity.
    • Chris Lehman, Founding Director of The Educator Collaborative, wrote an article for Edutopia on “How Leaders Can Improve Their Schools’ Cultural Competence.”
    • Last December, ILA and the National Association of Secondary School Principals cosponsored a briefing titled “Improving Student Literacy: Leadership Needed at Every Level” in Washington, DC. The briefing brought together a group of literacy leaders, policymakers, advocates, and educators who spoke to Congressional staffers from key Senate and House education committees about the critical importance of effective leadership at all levels. A recap of the event is available here.

    Themed “Literacy: A Pathway to Equity,” the inaugural ILA West 2018 will take place March 16–17 in San Diego, CAWithin the strand for administrators, participants will hear from students, teachers, principals, and district leaders about what is most important when leading literacy in schools and communities. Breakout sessions will focus on learning, sharing, and discussing key concepts around equity and student language support when reviewing your literacy program, including pedagogy and materials. Learn more and register here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    A Pathway to Equity: Resources for Teachers and Coaches

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 18, 2018

    ILA WestOne of the major takeaways from ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report is that equity in literacy education is a critical global issue, which we will be tackling at ILA West 2018 in March. As we examine inequity across the United States and around the world, we see that variables such as socioeconomic status, culture, geography, and disability all affect students’ access to quality literacy development. Survey respondents, mostly classroom teachers, expressed frustration that they do not have the supports needed to overcome these disparities and to level the playing field.

    Luckily, sites such as Teaching Tolerance, Edutopia, and Teaching for Change are treasure troves of free resources for advancing equity in the classroom. Below is a list of some of the most helpful tools we’ve encountered.

    1. The International Literacy Association’s last #ILAchat of 2017, produced jointly with Teaching Tolerance, focused on equity and the inclusive classroom. Participating educators discussed why and how educators can analyze their curriculum, their classrooms, and themselves to reduce bias practices and build inclusive learning spaces. The powerful conversation is archived on Storify
    2. Teaching Tolerance’s piece, “Two Heads Are Better Than One,” discusses how mentors and coaches are uniquely positioned to serve as antibias allies.
    3. Brown University’s website, Teaching Diverse Learners, shares publications, educational materials, and research that promotes high achievement for English language learners.
    4. Teaching for Change equips teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into “centers of justice.”
    5. Elena Aguilar, author of The Art of Coaching, published a five-part series on How to Coach for Equity in Schools via Education Week.
    6. Teaching Tolerance’s compilation of classroom resources for antibias education includes teaching strategies, lesson plans, perspective texts, student tasks, and more.  
    7. TeacherVision’s “Strategies for Teaching Culturally Diverse Students” provides guidelines for considering students' cultures and language skills when developing learning objectives and instructional activities, monitoring academic progress, and more to help improve outcomes for a culturally diverse student body.
    8. Edutopia houses a wealth of educational equity-related content for closing achievement gaps.

    Themed “Literacy: A Pathway to Equity,” the inaugural ILA West 2018 will take place March 16–17 in San Diego, CA. In the strand for teachers and coaches, participants will explore close reading, visible learning for literacy, quality instruction for English learners, vocabulary instruction, and many more topics that can ensure that all students, even our most vulnerable, become literate. Learn more and register here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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