Insights from an Experienced District Leader

July 1, 2023

Catherine Neal, the supervisor of early literacy and elementary reading and writing in the Loudoun school district, discusses the implementation of the science of reading at scale. She emphasizes the importance of evidence-based literacy practices and aligning with state mandates. The district makes strategic changes to assessment practices, such as discontinuing the DRA, and introduces programs like Heggerty to enhance phonemic awareness instruction. They prioritize teacher mindset by offering professional learning opportunities and support. Collaboration and communication across departments are crucial in establishing a unified approach. Neal also highlights the significance of a long-term vision and continuity for sustainable implementation. Her tips for other districts include valuing and celebrating teachers’ expertise, as well as building capacity and empowering them throughout the process.

  • Emphasizing Evidence-Based Literacy Practices and State Alignment: The implementation focuses on evidence-based literacy practices that have been proven effective in research. It also aligns with state mandates and standards to ensure a rigorous and cohesive approach to literacy instruction.
  • Strategic Assessment Changes: The district makes deliberate changes to assessment practices, such as discontinuing the use of the DRA, based on critical evaluation and feedback from teachers. This allows for a more accurate and informative assessment of student progress and helps inform instructional decisions.
  • Targeted Instructional Programs: The implementation includes the introduction of targeted instructional programs, like Heggerty, to address specific areas of need, such as phonemic awareness. These programs provide explicit and systematic instruction, ensuring students receive the necessary foundational skills for reading and writing success.
  • Teacher Mindset and Professional Learning: Recognizing the importance of teacher mindset, the district prioritizes professional learning opportunities and ongoing support. This helps educators develop a deep understanding of evidence-based practices and build confidence in implementing them effectively.
  • Collaborative Approach: Collaboration and communication across departments are key components of the implementation strategy. By bringing together diverse stakeholders, including assessment teams, special education departments, and language departments, the district fosters a cohesive and unified approach to literacy instruction.
  • Long-Term Vision and Sustainability: The implementation is guided by a long-term vision, considering the evolving needs of students and the shifting landscape of literacy instruction. This ensures that changes are not merely short-term fixes but are sustainable and impactful, creating lasting improvements in literacy outcomes.
  • Valuing and Empowering Teachers: The district recognizes and celebrates teachers’ expertise, valuing their contributions to literacy instruction. Teachers are empowered through professional development opportunities, ongoing support, and the opportunity to shape instructional practices, making them active participants in the implementation process.

LinkedIn – Anthony Kim

Recent Episodes

School Safety Strategies for the Summer
View episode

In today’s episode of School Safety Today by Raptor Technologies, join host Dr. Amy Grosso as she sits down with Dr. Allison Willemin, Executive Director of School Safety, Operational Technology, and Student Services at Oxford Community Schools, Michigan.  Together, they delve into the crucial topic of school safety during the summer months, focusing on…

Jonathan Lockwood, STEM Training and Development Specialist at Boxlight, discusses the transformative impact of educational technology
View episode

With technological advancements driving significant change in the educational landscape, these changes are extending beyond traditional classroom boundaries. The more recent shift in educational technology was fueled in adapting to a post-pandemic world, where the integration of technology into education has become essential. The pandemic underscored the importance of innovative teaching methods and tools,…

View episode

When discussing EdTech leaders in school districts, it’s clear that their roles and responsibilities can vary significantly depending on the district’s size and resources. The responsibility of managing educational technology might fall on individuals who wear multiple hats, such as school principals, IT coordinators, or even teachers. This lack of dedicated EdTech staff can…