The Illusion of Change

By Guest blogger, Dr. Anthony Muhammad, Author and Leadership Consultant.  He is the keynote speaker at our Complimentary VIP Leadership Summit event hosted by the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative. This event is being held on May 15, 2017. This invitation only event will offer an opportunity for school leadership to discuss transforming school culture to build teacher leadership and improve student outcomes. Please email for more information.

Anthony MuhammedChange is a very difficult process, but it is the catalyst to continuous improvement.  It tests our ability as professionals at many different levels.  Sometimes, when things get too challenging, we tend to look for short-cuts or we quietly surrender.  We live in a political climate that demands that we change, whether we choose to or not, but I have found that some organizations are good at creating the illusion of change, rather than being fully involved in the process of change.  There are a three key phrases which clearly indicate that an organization is not fully committed to the change process.

Phrase #1: “We are having conversations”

This phrase is a code for; “we have a lot of opposition to this idea and we are afraid to make people too uncomfortable and release an onslaught of political and social opposition.”  I recently worked with a school that has been involved with the implementation of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process for three years.  They have created collaborative teams and they have designated time for those collaborative teams to meet.  They have created district-wide formative assessments that are administered four times per year.  These milestones were reached in the first year of the process.  So, I asked about PLC Questions #3 and #4 which address systems of student intervention and enrichment, and the room got very quiet.  When people finally began to speak, each answer began with the phrase “we are having conversations.”  If your district is “having conversations,” the change process has stalled.

Phrase #2: “We are in different places”

This phrase is code for; “we don’t have a universal system of accountability, and people who understand the intrinsic value of what we propose have embraced it, and those that are averse are allowed to disregard it until they ‘buy-in’.” Schools and systems that use this phrase are engaged in what I call “accountability light.” This is a diet version of universal professional accountability where group expectations and coherence are the norm.  Healthy school cultures make collaborative decisions and they hold each other mutually accountable for full participation.  When shared commitment is not achieved, a tiered-system of commitment emerges where implementation is based upon personal preference.  Partial commitment is the same as no commitment.

Phrase #3: “District initiatives”

This phrase is code for; “there is a huge philosophical divide between school practitioners and central office which has led to a stalemate.”  I have had the pleasure to work with thousands of schools on the change process and whenever practitioners refer to the change process as a “district initiative,” it is never good.  In essence what they are expressing is a feeling of imposition.  In the mind of the school practitioner, they are confronting real world issues and they have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of the school; and central office lives a world disconnected from reality and their priorities are unreasonable and unnecessary.   This is a clear indication of poor communication and professional disconnection.  If your district has a lot of “initiatives,” effective change is probably not on the horizon.

Literacy for All Conference Recap

2013 LFA RecapHere’s a recap of all the tweets, photos, and links from this year’s 2013 Literacy for All Conference in Providence, RI

Some of the tweets…

JoEllen McCarthy @imalwayslearnin

Reading is thinking & talking. Lean in, listen bc instructional read alouds help us to get our hands on kids’ thinking. – @dsantman #lfa2013

Jenn Sinal @sinal_jenn

Fountas- We need students doing more thinking, talking, and constructing ideas about texts. #lfa2013

Amy Booms @Humanities101

In Guided Reading, all students need to participate at their own pace by whisper reading! #LFA2013 w/Diane Powell

Here’s what attendees had to say about their sessions…

“Informative and engaging… So many wonderful resources to take back to my classroom!”

“Fast moving, interesting, fun, informative, and efficient. This presentation was full of ideas to use immediately in the classroom.”

“I enjoyed being given the opportunity to work with the other teachers throughout the workshop. It was a great reminder of how important and valuable collaboration is.”

Conference PhotoConference handouts have been posted for sessions and can be found at:

Benefits of Having a Reading Recovery-Trained Interventionist at Your School

by Dr. Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer

Reading Recovery training and ongoing professional development are known for their high quality, rigor and intensity.  Reading Recovery-trained teachers develop life long professional expertise which benefits not only students who are eligible for the Reading Recovery intervention but also many other students in small group and classroom settings.

In fact, do you know how many students a Reading Recovery-trained teacher serves daily? Reading Recovery-trained teachers typically work for part of the day in Reading Recovery designing and delivering high quality one-to-one instruction to at least four first graders who have extreme difficulty with reading and writing and the other part of the day teaching students in another role.  They commonly serve as:

  • Title I or small-group reading teachers
  • Kindergarten teachers
  • Shared classroom teachers
  • Special education teachers
  • ESL teachers
  • Literacy Coaches
  • Administrators

Each year, a typical Reading Recovery-trained teacher works with at least 8 Reading Recovery students and about 40 other students.

Because of their deep understanding of literacy theory and practice, Reading Recovery-trained teachers become experts for their schools and districts.  They work collaboratively with colleagues to make informed decisions about teaching and learning in order to support the learning of ALL students.

Implementing the Early Literacy Interventionist model in Cambridge, MA Public Schools

In Cambridge, MA, school administrators have developed and implemented the Early Literacy Interventionist (ELI) position across the district.  Individuals who are hired as Early Literacy Interventionists are responsible for providing literacy support to students who are below grade level in reading and writing in grades K-3.  The ELIs work with small groups in guided reading, guided writing, and word study using the Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) system and also provide Reading Recovery to eligible first graders.  They work closely with teachers, support staff, and administrators on the planning and delivery of effective literacy instruction to all their struggling students.

For more information on the benefits of having Reading Recovery-trained early literacy interventionists at your school, read our Reading Recovery Implementation Guide.