Literacy is the cornerstone of education, opening doors to a world of knowledge, critical thinking, and opportunities. However, not all students have equal access to quality literacy resources and support. This is where literacy grants step in as a beacon of hope for educators and learners alike. GOAL Digital Academy has the privilege of receiving a literacy grant from the Ohio Department of Education to improve literacy instruction in our blended learning environment by setting up systems to identify intervention needs and deliver them, to ensure all GOAL students are strong readers.
During the 2022-2023 school year, our team of educators attended monthly training facilitated by national experts. We also held monthly team meetings where we could begin to move theory to practice. We identified four main activities for our work:
We developed a literacy Multi-Tiered System of Support model (MTSS) and established teams to monitor our impact. This model identifies the screener and diagnostic assessments we will use to determine GOAL students’ level of need for intervention. We then set thresholds for identifying students who need more intensive support and designed activities for each tier. In August, our Literacy Grant Team trained all English Language Art (ELA) teachers on this model and established a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) that meets weekly to review data and identify highly effective strategies.
We developed common expectations and high-quality, evidence-based vocabulary instruction. Teachers Hope Losh and Kelly Watson developed a course in Canvas with templates and instructions for the ELA teachers so that we can deliver consistent instruction across all grade levels. We set expectations for all ELA teachers to require three vocabulary activities weekly. One activity will include using Frayer models with grade-level vocabulary found in course texts. Teachers will use Academic Language Finder to identify grade-level vocabulary words for Tier 1 instruction. The second activity will be delivered using NearPod and will focus on academic and text-specific vocabulary. Our team set up a number of options for using NearPod’s features for literacy instruction and teachers will pull from this template, and revise for their courses. The third activity is delivered with Flocabulary and will focus on academic vocabulary. Teachers can select from a number of activities and assign them weekly.
Our team engages in ongoing training with Kim St. Martin, a national expert on literacy instruction and the author of the Reading Tiered Fidelity Inventory used by the state of Ohio who delivered two full days of training with our literacy grant team in June and August. During these trainings, we worked together to adapt the science of reading to GOAL’s online format and identified the non-negotiable aspects of literacy instruction. Then the team met to apply what we learned, identify online tools for high-quality instruction, meet protocols for data analysis, and design Tier 1 vocabulary instruction.
Finally, we have identified GOAL staff to become our literacy coaches and create a training and support program. We have three team members interested in becoming literacy coaches who have subject matter expertise and will attend courses to prepare them to use proven coaching methods. We are also partnering with our sponsor, Mid Ohio Educational Service Center to provide additional support to our coaches, so they will develop the skills necessary to coach peers.
Our first quarter this year focused on planning and preparation. We will be looking for fidelity and impact data and will work to develop an efficient system for pulling the data we need and organizing it so the team has the necessary data to draw conclusions. The second semester will focus on expansion as we finalize best practices and train the entire staff for Tier 1 literacy instruction across the curriculum.
The team is made up of Administrator, Dionna Randas, Independent Contractor Lisa Reigel, and nine staff members including Teachers and Intervention Specialists. Intervention Specialist, Hope Losh said:
“I had the opportunity to join the Literacy Grant Team and can honestly say that it has been an awesome feeling to be on such a passionate team. We work very well together and in a short amount of time, have been able to accomplish a lot. This experience has been beneficial to my position as an Intervention Specialist, both in my individual instruction with students, as well as my role as a co-teacher in the ELA classroom. The team has worked to implement instruction at all 3 levels of the MTSS process to support literacy. As an Intervention Specialist, this helps us to make sure we are using the MTSS process with fidelity and helps more effectively identify those that need more intervention. As co-teachers in the ELA class, we are working together to strengthen our Tier 1 and 2 instruction, which will positively impact our students' literacy growth. I am lucky to be a part of such a great team of educators!”
GOAL is being noticed at the state and national level as there is no model currently for high-quality online literacy instruction. State and national literacy teams are watching us carefully and hoping we can become the model for literacy instruction for online schools across Ohio and the United States. This attention is directly related to their observations about the quality and dedication of our team. We have made quick and thorough progress and our team is action-oriented and willing to put in the extra effort needed to design and implement new methods for teaching literacy. Instead of focusing on what is easiest for them, they have consistently focused on what is necessary for students. This literacy grant will serve as the impetus for system-wide improvement in literacy instruction and team collaboration.
GOAL’s MDT meets weekly and our Literacy Grant Team will meet monthly through the 2023-2024 school year. For more information on literacy support contact email@example.com.