Credit: Oregon Department of Educaiton
Educators in the classroom support students daily. Administrators support teachers, and districts provide support to the schools. Districts receive guidance and support from their state education agency, but who supports the state? There are several federally funded entities whose mandate is to support these state agencies, each with a different charge and area of influence. The Regional Educational Laboratories, or RELs, are one type of these entities.
In this next addition to REL Northwest's blog series highlighting our partnerships and how our work makes an impact, we look to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE)'s Literacy Framework partnership. In 2021, ODE determined that updating the 2009 Literacy Framework was a key priority for state funding. The update was designed with particular attention to literacy strategies that benefit students who experience disability, students with dyslexia, and multilingual learners.
Updating the Framework
Charged with improving student outcomes through evidence-based research and practices, REL Northwest assisted ODE staff as they incorporated the latest research and evidence into the state's early literacy framework.
While updating the framework, REL Northwest helped ODE develop a plan for using focus groups with education experts and agency staff throughout the state. Specifically, ODE gathered input from those with expertise in early literacy, students who experience disability, students with dyslexia, and multilingual students. Input was also gathered from educators and community members who work with students farthest away from literacy success due to systemic inequities, implicit bias, racism, lack of access to high quality instructional and reading materials that reflect the diversity of our students. REL Northwest helped ODE facilitate a clear process to analyze the focus group input and effectively incorporate the input into the new framework.
The seven guiding principles of the Early Literacy Framework are:
REL Northwest also engaged a leading literacy expert to ensure the framework reflected high standards for literacy teaching and learning practices. ODE published the new Early Literacy Framework in May 2023.
This framework is designed to strengthen belonging and literacy instruction in every elementary classroom so that all children leave elementary school proficient in reading and writing in at least one language. It speaks to the comprehensive nature of literacy instruction and underscores the complexity of learning to read and write. The seven guiding principles (listed on page 7 of the Early Literacy Framework) convey the values guiding the development, including, for instance: Every child must be taught to read and write: This responsibility is met by effective literacy instruction rooted in reading and writing research; culturally responsive and inclusive practices; Oregon's learning standards; high-quality instructional materials; and targeted support.
What to do with the data?
With the updated framework in place, ODE's next challenges are to ensure schools bring the framework into classroom practice.
The investment from the Early Literacy Success Initiative provides 90 million in grant funds districts can apply for to improve their early literacy practices. Through these grants, ODE will have a window into implementation of the Framework. The data from this implementation will be key to tracking progress towards improving student outcomes.
Collecting this kind of data on a state-level scale is challenging. Understanding and being able to use that data for further decision-making is an additional challenge beyond that, one that REL Northwest is working with ODE to meet. REL Northwest is working with ODE as they build processes to collect and analyze data from schools and districts on the use of evidence-based literacy practices in classrooms and spotlighting best practices across the state.
Looking to the future
By building ODE's capacity to do the collection and analysis themselves, REL Northwest's work will support not only the current literacy work in Oregon but also new priorities as they emerge. The tools and resources REL Northwest and ODE will work together to create over the next projects will not only be applicable for the literacy team at ODE, but have the potential to be useful agency-wide in the future.
Interested in learning more about literacy in the Northwest? Check out some other work REL Northwest is doing on the region: