June 16, 2021
BPS Literacy Plan Update
Tricia Clifford, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Schools
What a year! So much has happened in each of our four schools in Bedford, and with each new change, or transition, staff/faculty, parents and students have all been flexible and have done their best to focus on teaching and learning. I’ve written about the Bedford Public Schools Literacy Plan in the past on this blog, and it’s been discussed at school committee meetings, and within each of the faculty meetings at the schools. The BPS Literacy Plan was a joint effort among educators throughout the district in the spring of 2020. It was implemented in the fall of 2020, and now at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, I can provide an update on where we are with the five goals, and the action steps outlined under each of the goals.
Just to review, there are five goals within the Literacy Plan. Also, there is a Literacy Committee, with membership from each of the schools that meets with me every six weeks. The purpose of this committee and the bi-monthly meetings, is to check in on where we are with the progress of the action steps, and to also listen, support and problem solve as a committee, all things literacy related. The five goals that make up the Literacy Plan are as follows:
Goal 1: Vision/Leadership/Communication
Goal 2: Assessment
Goal 3: Intervention Process
Goal 4: Core curriculum and Instruction
Goal 5: Professional Development/Coaching
As I stated, each of the goals has a number of action steps outlined that address the goal. Each of the action steps is generally labeled with being addressed/completed during year 1, 2, or 3 of the plan’s lifespan. Some of the goals are to be implemented during all three years, while many of them are outlined specifically to be completed in year 1 or 2, etc. As I reviewed my notes before beginning to write this update, I was impressed with how many of the action steps that were outlined for year 1 of the plan were completed, and how many action steps outlined for year 2 were also completed-during a pandemic, during hybrid learning...kudos to the faculty/staff, students, and families!
Goal 1: Vision/Leadership/Communication. An important action step under this goal was to make sure that the Literacy Plan was embedded in School Improvement Plans throughout the district. This yielded action steps being embedded in what each school did this year, which added consistency and importance to the plan. We also were able to make sure that funding for programs, including Units of Study for Reading and Writing were supported. That Fundations (phonics instruction) training will take place, and be implemented with fidelity at the elementary level. Also that, Orton Gillingham, which is a specialized way to teach reading was provided and that special needs teachers were trained in this approach. We also have leveraged the expertise of our Literacy Specialists by creating schedules at the elementary level that allow them to work as interventionists at all grade levels, focusing on tiered intervention for students in relation to reading and writing needs. We are also participating in a specially designed workshop for teachers on “Differentiation” at the end of June from Research for Better Teaching. This training will help teachers plan and implement lessons and classroom structures that address the different learning needs, and instructional practices that students will need returning from a year of learning during the pandemic.
Goal 2: Assessment, We’ve implemented the Data Wise process for the second year. During the first year of implementing the Data Wise process (as I’ve outlined in this blog previously) the curriculum and administrative leadership group learned about how to use data to inform instruction. This past year, the actual work of implementing assessments in reading, writing, math, and science was utilized in what we call “assessment sweeps”, where students take assessments, and then we have data meetings where we discuss and analyze the data-and then implement interventions to address student needs. This process happens regularly at least twice a year, and in some cases three times a year.
Goal 3: Intervention Processes. Within this goal we’ve really been able to examine the RtI (Response to Intervention) structure, looking closely at how we use our faculty/staff to meet student needs, whether in small groups, or one on one, or “push in” to classrooms. We also made changes to our middle school ELA program, specifically in sixth grade, going from one ELA class for students, to a reading class and a writing class, doubling instructional time at that level on reading and writing. We also were able to begin to take assessment data and work on ways we can help teachers understand where their students are based on assessment reports. Also, we are examining ways to share this information with families at parent/teacher conferences during the 2021-2022 school year.
Goal 4: Core Curriculum and Instruction. Within this goal we were able to implement at the elementary level strong fidelity to our reading and writing curriculum. To also potentially implement more training on our phonics program, “Fundations”. We also have worked on common assessments for writing at the 6-12 level, and at BHS we started the process for school-wide curriculum development and revision of the curriculum, which will be a three year process.
Goal 5: Professional Development/Coaching. This year while so much was new, we were able to implement a lot of newly acquired instructional strategies, which was amazing. We were able to continue to provide professional development based on individual teacher needs. A great deal of time was invested in professional development related to “Data Literacy”, learning how to use data to inform instruction, which will continue. We also, as I stated previously, will be participating in a workshop for teachers spanning three days in June on “Differentiation” which will help teachers address the various needs of their students, and help to reinforce the workshop model for reading and writing that we are utilizing in several of the grades throughout the district.
This is just a quick update and review of the impact that the BPS Literacy Plan has had within the district during the past year. As I stated, we were, surprisingly, able to implement many of the year 1 action steps, and year 2 action steps this past year. We will continue to meet as a Literacy Committee every other month during the 2021-2022 school year, keeping our eyes on the action steps we’ve implemented, and those that we need to implement in the next few years. As always, thank you to the Bedford families, students and faculty/staff for their continued support and work.
Tricia Clifford, Ed. D.