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Arizona Literacy Partnership (AZL)

The Arizona Literacy Partnership (AZL) aims to examine data, embed evidence-based approaches, and conduct inquiry-based improvement processes to improve reading proficiency by grade 3. In 2016, approximately 41 percent of Arizona third graders demonstrated proficiency on the state’s reading assessment. Given the future academic challenges faced by students with low reading skills in the early grades, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), as well as many school districts and communities, have renewed their focus on early literacy development. Stakeholders want to learn how students develop early literacy and what district practices can contribute to students' early literacy success, especially among English learner students and students living in poverty.┬áTo address these questions, REL West is partnering with ADE and a small set of local districts, including Sunnyside Unified School District, to form the Arizona Literacy Partnership.

Partnership Objectives

The primary goal of AZL is to improve K–3 literacy outcomes for Arizona students by strengthening the implementation of evidence-based approaches through disciplined inquiry. To accomplish this, the partnership focuses on:

  • Examining data to support improved literacy attainment, especially for English learner students and students living in poverty.
  • Supporting districts in selecting evidence-based strategies to improve K–3 literacy.
  • Implementing and embedding evidence-based literacy interventions and supports using inquiry processes and improvement science principles.


ESSA Evidence Standards. One strand of training and coaching focuses on the understanding and application of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards to literacy programs and practices. Support is being provided to the Arizona Department of Education, and in turn to school districts.

Improvement Science. A second strand of training and coaching focuses on how schools and districts can use improvement science principles and tools such as system analysis and Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles to improve literacy practices and outcomes.

Research on English learners. Research in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education is analyzing state data to understand literacy outcomes for students who enter kindergarten with different English learner classifications and have different educational experiences.


The partnership includes staff and leaders from the Arizona Department of Education and Sunnyside Unified School District.