In an earlier post, Kelly Hunter, our executive director, talked about CLI’s shift from changing the world “one classroom at a time” to fostering sustainable, school-wide change in the schools and districts we work with. For us, the most significant benefit of winning funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) initiative is our ability to help schools transform their culture to support effective literacy instruction.
“School culture” is often one of those vague education buzzwords, but for us, its meaning is very clear—every teacher in a school must believe that each child who passes through their doors will be able read by the end of the third grade—and every teacher must have the training, ongoing support, and resources to make good on that promise.
From the beginning, CLI Model Classrooms were intended to serve as exemplars for other teachers. If you walk through a school with a Model Classroom, you’ll see other teachers using the same strategies and resources as the teacher with whom CLI works most closely, and in formal and informal ways, all teachers share effective practices with each other.
Now, the i3 grant has allowed us to invest resources into ensuring that this kind of school-wide transformation happens in 39 public schools in four cities—Philadelphia, Chicago, Camden, N.J., and Newark, N.J. In those schools, we will be providing ongoing coaching and support for instructional coaches and principals to help them support—and once the grant period is over, sustain—effective literacy practices in their buildings.
Working with principals is particularly important to us. In recent years, their job description has changed considerably—principals are now expected to be the instructional leaders of their buildings and lead professional development, all at a time when the resources to train them for these evolving roles have been in short supply. By providing principals the same kind of coaching that has helped Model Classroom teachers for years, CLI can help them be more effective leaders who can set the kind of expectations and provide the support to bring about lasting improvements in literacy instruction.
Over the five-year i3 grant period, CLI-trained teachers will reach 45,600 students. But by focusing on giving school leaders the training and resources to sustain a culture that supports effective literacy instruction, we know our work will touch countless more children.