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.