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Articles in Word Study Team and Literacy Updates

Literacy Pilot results will be shared June 12

UPDATED JUNE 12, 2017: The Word Study Team presented its findings to the Teaching and Learning Committee on June 12. Based on the WST recommendations, the Teaching and Learning Committee at a special board meeting June 12 will recommend that the Board approve using Fundations.

The Ames Community School District has concluded a pilot of program materials for kindergarten through second grade teachers to use when providing instruction around foundational skills in reading. The pilot was established after K-2 teacher representatives met in the spring of 2016 and recommended that all K-2 teachers have common materials for Tier 1 instruction across schools in phonics and phonemic awareness.

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Links to video presentations from pilot materials representatives

Thanks to everyone who came to view our video presentations from the representatives for each of our K-2 foundational skills materials pilot programs.

For those who couldn’t attend, we want to share the links to the Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons presentation and the Reach into Phonics presentation. Unfortunately, due to corporate policy, we weren’t allowed to record the Fundations presentation. However, we have included a link to the Fundations website if you want to learn more about these materials.

Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons presentation

Reach into Phonics presentation

Fundations website

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Program representatives will give live video presentations of Literacy Pilot materials

Watch live video presentations 5:15 – 6:15 p.m, Monday, May 8

Representatives from Fountas & Pinnell, Fundations, and Reach into Phonics will provide live video presentations of the Literacy Pilot materials from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m, Monday, May 8. They will give a brief overview of each program and address questions. 

Submit question in advance

To allow the representatives to tailor their presentations to our needs, all questions must be submitted in advance through this survey:

Watch for the video link

We will provide the link to the live video presentation in advance. The video will be archived for future viewing.

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March 24, 2017- Update on third rotation and community feedback

The third rotation of the word study pilot began on Tuesday, March 22nd. The Word Study Team met and scored the materials they used during the second rotation and received materials for their last rotation. They will teach with these materials through May 9th. We will meet again as a team for the final rubric scoring on Tuesday, May 15th. At that point, we will be waiting to set another meeting until we can get all of the data back from the Iowa Reading Research Center, including student scores from the assessments and fidelity checks. We will keep everyone updated as the timeline develops, but we do not have a firm date yet. We anticipate that we will have all of the data back in late May.

We have had some requests for clarification about how the community feedback forms will be used in the final decision.  We are collecting both quantitative and qualitative data throughout the pilot. The quantitative data (student assessment data, rubric scores, teacher survey, admin survey, and survey from parents of pilot students) are broken down by specific percentages (here’s a link to the earlier post with those numbers). The qualitative data, including the community feedback comments, teacher comments, and administrator comments will also be read and considered by the administrative team. While we are hoping the quantitative data will paint a very clear picture, we may need to rely more heavily on the qualitative data should that not be the case.

Thanks for continued support during this process!

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Give feedback on Literacy Pilot materials


Materials on display through March 27

Now is your chance to peruse teacher and student resources and hands-on learning accessories for the three sets of Foundational Skills Materials being reviewed for the Kindergarten – Grade 2 literacy pilot. The materials are on display in the lobby of our District Offices, 2005 24th St. during our office hours from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 

Open House from 5 – 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 27

Teachers on Special Assignment Erin Miller and Mary Morton will be on hand  to answer questions before the regular school board meeting on March 27.

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Here’s a link to a site providing more information on the materials review and the materials.

Here’s the link to the online feedback survey.

Use these hashtags on Social Media #AmesWST #AmesCSD

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March 3, 2017- Inviting Public Input

We’re inviting the community to learn more about the Kindergarten – Grade 2 literacy pilot materials and give us feedback. In this video, Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross summarizes reasons new materials are being piloted. Board member Tim Rasmussen and Board Vice President Alisa Frandsen, who are members of the Teaching & Learning Committee, invite the public to come to an input session prior to the March 27 regular Board meeting, and to visit displays of the materials at Parent-Teacher Conferences March 6 – 9. 

Here’s a link to a site providing more information on the materials review and the materials.

Here’s the link to the online feedback survey.

Use these hashtags on Social Media #AmesWST #AmesCSD

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Word Study Team discusses second cycle of pilot materials

The Word Study Team met with the Teaching & Learning Committee on Jan. 25, 2017.  Dan Andrews, Mary Morton and Erin Miller led the discussion.

Morton reviewed the literacy pilot timeline. The second cycle of materials piloting has rolled out and went smoother than the initial rollout. Teachers expressed feeling much better about the process. Upon completion of the first round of pilot materials, each teacher independently completed the scoring rubric to reflect on their experiences with that set of materials. Then, teacher teams did a collaborative scoring on the rubric, which allowed them to have further discussion about the materials. There was also discussion about how to gain community feedback on materials. Final details are in the works at this time, including the possibility of addressing each PTO ahead of conference week, where the materials could be available for preview by parents/guardians.

Morton and Miller presented details of the Northwood pilot, which focuses on phonemic awareness and oral language. Three programs were reviewed against a hybrid rubric that was based on work from the Florida Reading Research Center and Virginia’s Preschool Rubric for Curriculum Review.  The team decided to pilot Language and Literacy (from the Handwriting Without Tears company) for purchase for the 2017-18 school year.

The 3-5 Word Study Team will be postponed until next fall. This will allow the K-2 work to inform the 3-5 work.

The Committee will consider having representatives provide a parent presentation in the evening on March 21 and having materials in buildings during conference week for parent review. The Committee also discussed the merits of providing a Teaching & Learning Committee overview.

Andrews asked if a Teacher confidence survey could be conducted again for Professional Development planning purposes.

The Committee discussed the Parent Reading Camp for struggling readers, including what parents should be looking for in terms with spelling and writing, for example, and finding decodable books.

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Update on pilot of literacy materials

Finishing first round of piloting materials

We are finishing our first wave of the K-2 Word Study Team Foundational Skills Materials Pilot. As pilot teachers finish their first round of piloting materials, their students will have been given a short assessment to check for learning growth. In January, teams of teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will collaboratively score their assigned materials using the rubric adapted from the Florida Center for Reading Research. Teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will also complete a survey to reflect on their experiences with their first set of materials.

The next round of materials will be distributed after winter break. Teachers will have a short training with someone from the company that publishes each of the pilot materials. Then, as was the case during the first round, Curriculum Department staff will provide weekly support opportunities for all pilot teachers.

Clarifying the pilot recommitment process

The Curriculum Department staff, along with Dr. Deborah Reed, as well as board members Tim Rasmussen and Alisa Frandsen who serve on the Board’s Teaching & Learning Committee, met with Fellows parents at the request of their PTO co-presidents. One of the questions raised was whether there was a way for students or teachers to opt-out of the pilot. At the time of the meeting, there was not a plan for opting out.

After hearing questions and concerns from those in attendance, Curriculum Department staff met to generate ideas based on what they heard. Teaching & Learning Committee members were also included in this meeting since they were at the Fellows parent meeting. The question about opting out was discussed at length. The group discussed having each building recommit to the pilot process; if the building chose not to recommit, their data would be excluded and they opted out of the decision-making process.

The recommendation was that this discussion be moved to the elementary principals’ meeting on December 1 for further discussion. At that meeting, the four elementary principals who attended agreed to recommit to the pilot by 4 p.m. on Monday, December 5. The timeline was necessary to be able to communicate with the Iowa Reading Research Center as collaborators in the data collection process. A member of the Curriculum Department reached out to the principal who was absent from the meeting, to ensure all buildings had accurate information about the recommitment.

Four out of the five elementary buildings recommitted to the pilot process. However, late morning on December 5, Fellows elected not to recommit to the pilot. While this is unfortunate in terms of a District-wide pilot that engages the voices of teachers from each of our schools, we are confident that the extensive data collection being done with the support of the Iowa Reading Research Center will help the District make a student-centered decision based on the experiences of the pilot teachers and the rest of the team involved in this pilot.

The Ames Community School District has routinely used pilots when choosing curriculum materials for nearly 30 years. The pilot process allows teachers to use instructional materials to determine whether or not they are the best choice for Ames students. Piloting of instructional materials is common practice in the educational landscape. However, this particular pilot has had unprecedented attention. For that reason, we sought the assistance and expertise of the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) at the request of a small group of parents. The IRRC has been an amazing partner in helping us refine our pilot design and collecting data to make well-informed decisions at the pilot’s conclusions.

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K-2 Literacy Pilot Frequently Asked Questions

How were the materials selected for the K-2 Literacy Pilot?

Last January, the K-2 Word Study Team identified a gap in the District’s literacy program in the areas of phonemic awareness and phonics. Phonemic awareness and phonics are foundational skills that comprise a small part of the Literacy Block, a 90-minute allotment of time devoted to teaching all literacy skills, including comprehension.

The pilot  was not intended to address a comprehensive literacy program; rather, the materials selected will help provide common language and a consistent scope and sequence to our phonemic awareness and phonics instruction across the District.

To select materials to address the foundational skills, the Word Study Team (WST) members took a survey to narrow down programs that appeared to align with foundational skills from 15 programs to six. The next step was for the WST to vet the programs in order to have three or four programs to pilot to fit the number of programs that would be piloted. The process used two sections, Phonemic Awareness and Phonics, from the Florida Reading Research Center’s (FRRC) rubric.

The WST worked collaboratively to conduct this initial vetting. Each WST member was part of a team tasked with scoring three out of the six programs. At the end of the scoring, every program had been evaluated using the indicators on the rubric.

After all of the scores were averaged and shared, the group negotiated around piloting the highest scoring programs. After discussion, the WST engaged in a Fist-to-Five process where all members indicated their support  of the decision by submitting a score of two or higher. The proposal that the WST reached consensus on included 1) three programs would be more manageable to pilot than four programs, and 2) the top three programs would be piloted: Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons, Fundations, and Reach into Phonics.

What support did the WST receive for implementing the pilot and collecting data?

After the programs were selected, a pilot schedule was created to help each member of the WST develop a deeper level of understanding for each set of materials. As the process unfolded, the Iowa Reading Research Center was able to support student data collection and teacher implementation.

How did each program score on the initial vetting rubric?

The District has received requests to see the results of the vetting data. We recognize that the process is important to understanding the data and how those data are best used in the process.

With a rank of 6th, PASS scored 28.2% of the possible points available by 3 of the 4 groups tasked with vetting it. It earned 70.11% of the possible points in Phonemic Awareness, but earned none of the points available for Phonics.

With a rank of 5th, Words Their Way scored 37.5% of the possible points by 3 of the 4 groups tasked with vetting it. This program may be still have appropriate uses in our District to meet the needs of our students, but will not be included in our pilot.

With a rank of 4th, Open Court scored 71.18% of the possible points by 4 of the 4 groups tasked with vetting it. Although it scored near the next highest program, Open Court was not included due to a lack of consensus on the quality of the program and the scope and sequence it contained.

The remaining programs were selected for the pilot: Fountas and Pinnell Phonics Lessons (71.30% by 3 of 4 groups), Reach into Phonics (80.09% by 3 of 4 groups), and Fundations, (88.89% by 2 of the 4 groups).


The only purpose of this data was to determine the top three programs, not to make any determination of rank beyond which programs were to be piloted. The rank of the top three programs will be determined by the entirety of the pilot process.

Moving forward, each of the pilot programs will be evaluated on the merits of the program, the impact they have on student achievement, and the opinions of our administrators, teachers, and parents, and each program has an equal chance to be adopted.

How will my child be successful in reading if s/he changes materials three times this year?

Because of the nature of the scope and sequence of these materials as vetted in the phonological awareness and phonics sections of the rubric, all of these programs follow a similar learning path through the year. Teachers will not re-teach units during each different rotation; rather, teachers will work with the support of the program representatives, TOSAs and instructional coaches to best determine where to enter into the new program in order to ensure continued student success.

Students who are already identified as needing more assistance in reading will continue to receive the support already in place. As teachers continually assess student learning, they will be providing ongoing support to each student to ensure growth. Additionally, teachers will continue to work through the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) process in order to identify and provide interventions for students who are in need in compliance with the Iowa Department of Education’s expectations.

How will the decision be made?

Because all WST members will be more familiar with each of these programs after the pilot, only the scores from the final evaluation will be used to make the decision. The scores from the initial (pre-pilot) evaluation will have served their purpose of narrowing down the number of programs for the pilot. After each rotation of the pilot, each team member will score his/her assigned program using a rubric for the phonics, phonological awareness, instructional design, and assessment sections. Once all teams have completed a rubric for each program, these new scores will be used in the final decision (see FAQ below regarding final decision weighting).

The data will be collected and analyzed, and the final decision will be based on the following weighted categories:

  • Rubric Scoring – 30%
    • 8 rubrics averaged together for each program
      • 2 per rotation from teams engaged with that set of materials  
      • 1 from Curriculum & Instruction for each program
      • 1 from the Iowa Reading Research Center for each program
  • Student Growth Data – 30%
  • Teacher/Coach Survey – 17.5%
    • 15 teachers (3 teachers from each building)
    • 5 instructional coaches (1 from each building)
  • Admin/TOSA Survey – 17.5%
    • 2 directors
    • 5 elementary principals
    • 4 TOSAs
  • Parent Survey 5%
    • This survey will include discussion questions about materials for students’ parents to discuss with them.

Why are you videotaping my child? How will that video be used?

Teachers are videotaping themselves using the materials in order to allow the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) to gather data on how teachers are implementing the instructional design of each pilot program. Students are not the focus of these recordings, and the IRRC will destroy the videos on conclusion of the pilot. Additionally, the primary source for the IRRC work will be an audio recorder that the teacher wears, which will also be destroyed at the end of the pilot. Video will only be examined to clarify or as a back-up.

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