Skip to main content

State literacy team: Improve equity through rigorous instruction

Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Statewide Literacy Leadership Team members met at Grand View University in Des Moines, for an interactive, one-day professional learning workshop, to learn how to utilize tools to ensure students have access to grade-level, appropriate English Language Arts assignments, and standards-aligned instruction.

Are graduates of your school system ready for the rigors of college? Has your district prepared them academically to face the challenges of college-level work?

Many school leaders are asking these questions after reviewing The Opportunity Myth, a study done by The New Teacher Project (TNTP).

This study and actions local district leaders can take to ensure graduates are college- and career-ready was the focus of the Feb. 20 meeting of the Statewide Literacy Leadership Team (SLLT). Mya Baker, Midwest vice-president, and Jessie Dirks, Midwest director, joined the team to discuss the topic, which is significant in the work the SLLT is engaging in this year.

The TNTP study found that most students, especially students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners spend the majority of their time in school without access to four critical resources:

  • Consistent opportunities to work on grade-appropriate assignments
  • Strong instruction, where students do the majority of the thinking in class
  • Deep engagement in what they are learning
  • Teachers who hold high expectations for students and who believe they can meet grade-level standards

The study involved tracking 4,000 students, observing 1,000 hours of classroom instruction and collecting more than 5,000 assignments, 20,000 pieces of student work, 30,000 real-time student engagement surveys, and hundreds of teacher responses.

The team will continue to study strategies to improve students’ academic learning in its final meeting of the year, to be held March 26. The meeting will feature Amy Rudat, director of English/Language Arts at UnboundEd.

Rudat will provide a professional learning workshop to help literacy leaders integrate standards-based knowledge and content into their daily practice. While considering the Standards as an equity move, participants will dive into the Shifts in ELA/Literacy, learn more about how they build, and think about standards-aligned reading and writing instruction. The workshop will provide time to network with colleagues and consider the next steps.

"The learning series is an essential step in our access, identity, and equity action plan,” said Leigh Bellville, Iowa Department of Education literacy consultant. “As literacy leaders and change agents, our ongoing commitment is to build capacity in the state of Iowa by providing effective practices to increase student achievement."

For more information on the Statewide Literacy Leadership Team, contact Bellville, 515-689-3717 or