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Iowa Department of Education

10/28/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/28/2020 01:28

School district collaboratively works to improve literacy instruction

The Pella Community School District K-6 Leadership Team took the initiative to complete the Standards Professional Learning Opportunities in English language arts/literacy course over the last school year.

They worked through the course collaboratively when preparing to lead a district research team, which consisted of approximately 20 educators.

'Our K-6 Leadership team utilized many resources from the course to help guide our work, and it helped to keep us focused on what is most important,' said Annie Foskett, an instructional coach. 'Throughout this course, the word that continues to stick out to me is intentionality.'

A few resources she found valuable include 'Knowledge Matters Campaign: Restoring Wonder and Excitement to the Classroom,' 'A Different Look at the Causes of the Achievement Gap in Reading ' by Student Achievement Partners, and slides relating to 'Topic-Based Book Baskets for the Classroom Library.' Foskett intends to shift practice to topic-centered instruction for building knowledge.

Sarah Kuennen, an instructional coach, discussed the next steps for professional learning during 2020-21.

'We plan to share the reading research and information about the shifts in ELA with our entire K-6 staff before we incorporate a new curriculum,' she said. 'We will use the resources shared through this class during that process.'

There are several resources Kuennen found critical to incorporate into professional development with teachers. One example from module 3 is 'Selecting Great Materials is Not Enough' by Lauren Weisskirk, EdReports.org chief strategy officer.

Kuennen will advocate for involving more educators during piloting and when choosing materials. She emphasized that while completing the course content was 'intense,' it is incredibly beneficial to lead staff through the same learning process.

'I feel much more empowered and motivated to keep learning and leading our teachers through this journey,' she said.