This month marks the kick-off for the next phase of project LIFT, a joint partnership between FSM National Department of Education, the four state departments of education, and Technical Assistance & Consulting Services (TACS)-an outreach unit within the University of Oregon's College of Education.
The LIFT project focuses on building capacity to promote and improve early literacy achievement in FSM using multi-tiered systems of support-also known as response to intervention (RtI). Key characteristics of this model include regular screening and progress monitoring, early intervention for struggling readers, differentiated instruction based on student need, and regular team meetings using data to make instructional decisions.
The initial implementation of the project will involve four pilot schools-one from each of the four state. The four pilot schools are Iras Elementary School (Chuuk), Tafunsak Elementary School (Kosrae), Sekere Elementary School (Pohnpei), and Gaanelay Elementary School (Yap). Four teams representing each state and school, joined NDOE staff and TACS consultants on Pohnpei on January 13-17, 2014 for a fiveday intensive team building, strategic planning, and skills training. The state teams included the Directors of Education, principals, administrators, staff development specialists, early childhood education teachers, special education teachers, and a designated literacy coach.
On Monday, Dr. Rufino Mauricio, FSM Secretary of Education, welcomed the group and affirmed commitment to this multi-year project. TACS director John
Inglish presented Dr. Mauricio with a University of Oregon pen, acknowledging Dr. Mauricio's alumni status with University of Oregon. Following opening remarks, the teams engaged in a needs assessment process. Each state team shared information on their current practices for screening, assessment, and instruction. The group then reviewed current student performance data, and began formulating recommendations for short, intermediate, and long-term goals focused on improving student literacy. This was followed by a comprehensive review of evidence-based best practices in early literacy instruction. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, participants engaged in a deep study of the essential elements of good reading instruction including language acquisition and development, phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Participants shared ideas and strategies for improving classroom learning. On Friday, the four pilot coaches accompanied TACS consultants to Sekere Elementary School.
The teams were able to meet the Acting Principal and other school staff, tour the school, and practiced some basic screening practices on a small group of 3rd grade students. The teams then met to debrief and formulate immediate action steps for the remainder of the year. TACS consultant Elizabeth Jankowski will be making onsite visits to each of the four pilot schools to conduct deeper staff training and establish screening and data collection protocols. In addition, an online professional learning community will be established where teams can network, and share questions, insights, successes, and challenges. Learning modules on all of the major components for multi-tiered literacy instruction will be created and made available online to the project teams so as to ensure sustained capacity building and further scaleup of the project.
The teams departed with a high degree of enthusiasm and energy for what lies ahead. The teams discussed the fact that system changes do not happen overnight, and affirmed their commitment to this multiyear effort. The group also stressed the importance of coherence throughout the implementation of the project. That is, the importance of coordinating with other practitioners- both internal and external-as the project moves forward so as to ensure that resources are leveraged in the most efficient manner, and that expertise is shared widely.