Learning from Leaders

Recently, the Education Writers Association held their annual national seminar, “Learning from Leaders,” here in Philadelphia. The event brought together education reporters, experts, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, policymakers, district administrators, and educators to discuss important topics in education.

In addition to the Leaders in Literacy site visit at Samuel Powel Elementary that showcased CLI Model ClassroomsTM to writers from across the country, several sessions at the seminar focused on topics that relate to CLI’s work, including Common Core State Standards, the role of principals, effective teaching, federal education policy, early education for low-income students, and summer learning loss.
A panel discussing the Common Core noted that implementing consistent standards across states can help our education system better prepare students to compete in a global economy, and that successful implementation of the Common Core requires improved professional learning opportunities for teachers. CLI’s professional development, which is made available to teachers through CLI Model ClassroomsTM and CLI Compass, complements the Common Core by giving teachers effective and high-impact literacy practices that address all areas of the standards, including exposing students to a wide range of texts and ensuring that students master comprehension and oral communication skills.
During a session about principals, panelists stated that many people do not expect principals to impact student learning and that they may often feel unprepared to lead. CLI provides principals with training, coaching, and resources specific to their role as literacy leaders in their schools to help them build the skills they need to create a supportive learning environment for both teachers and students in their building. 
Experts on early childhood education spoke about the decreased funding for and attention toward pre-k and kindergarten programs across the country. Despite the great importance of providing children with high-quality early education to better prepare them for school, funding continues to dwindle for state-funded programs, including those that serve low-income families. In addition, many states only require school districts to offer half-day kindergarten programs as opposed to full-day programs, and some states do not require kindergarten to be offered at all. CLI Model ClassroomsTM begin at kindergarten because of the importance of providing students with quality literacy instruction throughout their earliest school years. And helping low-income students develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills early will help ensure they read by third grade, a major factor in determining a student’s academic success and likelihood to graduate.
Panelists discussing summer learning noted that students lose about one month of learning over the summer break and that it is important for all students to make summer an active learning time. To promote summer reading among elementary students and to help them build home libraries filled with high-quality and engaging books, CLI launched the Camden Literacy Project this year in Camden, NJ. Funded through a generous grant from Townsend Press, the Camden Literacy Project provides parents and families with resources and strategies to encourage summer reading as well as new books. 
We at CLI know that improving literacy instruction and achievement requires a comprehensive approach that involves all aspects of education, including teachers, principals, learning environment, and best practices. The EWA seminar reflected this line of thinking by bringing together key thinkers and leaders in education and journalism to build upon what we already know and give insight to new strategies and ideas about how to keep improving our education system to support students and learners of all ages and levels.