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Literacy Initiative That Sticks

8 Ideas for District Leaders on Launching a Literacy Initiative That Sticks


Literacy and writing instruction across grades and disciplines is a common goal, but the path to adoption, commitment, and implementation has many twists and turns. 

  • How do you efficiently vet and select a literacy and writing solution?
  • Once you have a direction how do you build consensus and momentum for adoption?
  • What is the approach to evaluating success on this new path, where twists and turns are inevitable?

Here are 8 key considerations for district-level leaders:

1. How much are the students writing, really? - This is a key starting point. Take a step back and honestly evaluate how much writing is taking place. If the answer is no, figure out what needs to be done next to get your school there, to prepare your students for more writing, and to make faculty better at teaching writing. This is a fundamental component of improved test scores, grades, and literacy–any academic topic will be impacted by how much a student is writing. 

2. The search for a new writing solution - When it becomes apparent that your campus needs to make a change, keep an eye out for viable resources that have proven successful in the past.

3. Writing to improve content consumption - So, what about the students who are struggling with foundational gaps, such as reading at grade level? Simply put: the more students write, the better they get at consuming content. If you write more, you read better. Reading and writing are not either/or, they are married together. Teaching writing positively affects every aspect of school without needing to change any other part of the curriculum. 

4. Implementing new programs - Ask yourself and your staff: Is this something we have the opportunity to make cultural? Do not view necessary changes to improve reading and writing as an intervention, view it as integrating a new resource into an existing structure. (Language has power, if you view ThinkCERCA, or any resource you choose, as a separate entity, you will not be able to fit it or layer it in with your existing resources, structures, etc. and it will feel like a burden more than a handy new tool.) If you can fit a resource seamlessly into the existing slots within your campus’s structure, it’s less of an additional resource and more of a piece of the process as a whole.

Tools are great, but they do not need to be constantly adhered to once we get the hang of them. When students are doing ThinkCERCA, they are not doing ThinkCERCA, they are writing.

5. When you need to know more - When do you know you need to bring in something new (like ThinkCERCA) and when do you know you just need to shift strategies (shake up the curriculum)? View these moments of evaluation as an opportunity to build upon what you were already trying to do, rather than establishing a brand new motive, idea, etc. If your goal requires more tools, go get them!

6. It’s a strategy - Think of ThinkCERCA as a strategy for teaching writing that also happens to be accompanied by software. Students can ThinkCERCA outside of ThinkCERCA. If they understand the process, they will carry those skills and fundamental traits from classroom to classroom, achieving higher and higher levels of thinking, analyzing, and more.

7. Must-ask-yourself-questions - When choosing a new program ask if the product is just a software that uses technology to do something in an easier way or if it is a supplemental tool that makes a noticeable difference. Think about whether it is an appropriate framework for what you are trying to accomplish. Does this resource fit within the context of what we want for our students?

All districts have vendors and partners. You want your resources to be a partner for you rather than a vendor. 

8. Evaluating effectiveness - Even though this is a writing curriculum, it is still important to look at test scores when evaluating progress. Test scores comprise one aspect of gauging progress. Another way to gauge progress is by evaluating confidence levels among students and staff. Is there a noticeable difference? This can come across in the writing setting or any other academic space. When evaluating progress, consider a combination of factors: is the resource being used? What is the data suggesting? Are they producing quality work?

Click here for the Boardroom to Classroom webinar series, focused on the process of selecting, adopting, implementing, and evaluating a literacy and writing solution.

Download the full version with the district- and school-level considerations here.

Dr. P.J. Caposey
Dr. P.J. Caposey

Dr. P.J. Caposey is a dynamic speaker and a transformational leader and educator. Most recently, Dr. Caposey was awarded Superintendent of the Year by IASA. P.J. began his career as an award-winning teacher in the inner-city of Chicago and has subsequently led significant change in every administrative post he has held. He became a principal at the age of 28 and within three years was able to lead a small-town/rural school historically achieving near the bottom of its county to multiple national recognitions. After four years, P.J. moved to his current district, Meridian CUSD 223, and as Superintendent, has led a similar turnaround leading to a myriad of national recognitions for multiple different efforts. P.J. is a best-selling author and has written 8 books for various publishers. His work and commentary has been featured on sites such as the Washington Post, NPR, CBS This Morning, ASCD, Edutopia, the Huffington Post, and was featured in a Global Leaders Forum think-piece alongside the likes of General Petraeus and General McChrystal. He works in the Education Department of two universities and in a myriad of capacities with the Illinois Principals Association including Principal Coach and author of the first complete stack of MicroCredentials offered in Illinois.