Leading for Excellence: Establishing Coherence in the Instructional Program

by Irene Fountas

Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

One essential goal in our schools is to create places where students learn how to learn and experience the joy of inquiry into meaningful topics and a variety of texts so they can develop the essential habits and competencies that will enable them to live a fulfilling and productive life. This is the greater goal that sometimes gets lost in everyday schooling. The goal can’t be accomplished without year after year of highly effective teamwork around a set of common values and beliefs that pervade the school. The set of values and beliefs form the foundation for the set of competencies that form the curriculum and lead to the effective instructional practices.

The Principal Factor

As the instructional leader in the school, the principal plays a key role in bringing the team together around developing and stating in clear terms the values and beliefs of the school that will provide the context for student learning. The team includes all those who support the literacy development of the students which of course includes classroom teachers, disciplinary teachers, support teachers, and specialists and classroom teachers. Along with the principal, the whole school team owns the outcomes of the literacy program and contributes to the success of each other in helping students achieving those outcomes.

Some key questions include:

What literacy opportunities will every student have in their school day?

How will students be actively engaged in their learning?

How much text will students process each day?

What text resources will students access?

What kinds of assessments will inform the continuous teaching?

How will members of the team work together to plan for and assess the progress of each student?

When the values and beliefs in the school are clear, the team can provide coherence in the instructional program and the principal can support policy decisions and decisions related to professional learning opportunities in the school to align with those goals. The professional staff has clear expectations of their role in supporting the students and in supporting each other and the students benefit from the kind of teamwork that lets no child fall through the crack.  Every child deserves this kind of coherence to grow up literate in our schools.


We hope principals and school teams can join us for What Every School Leader Needs to Know About Good Literacy Teaching and Effective Literacy Coaching so that you can articulate your vision and have the collegial support to help your school achieve the excellence that assures every child is successfully literate.  Consider coming with principals and school teams from your district, your literacy coach, and key members of your central office as a team. Choose from our winter or summer seminar series:

Winter 2013:

January 29-31 and March 4-5, 2013

Summer 2013:

August 12-15, 2013

I hope to meet you and support you in achieving excellence!

One thought on “Leading for Excellence: Establishing Coherence in the Instructional Program

  1. As a literacy teacher whose efficacy is greatly dependent upon the lived core curriculum, the key questions really resonate with me. I will certainly use them as guiding questions going forth.


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