spacerThe New England Comprehensive Center acts on behalf of all students in New England by working with education leaders in each state to fulfill the promise of No Child Left Behind.

Partners in Literacy Symposium 2006

NECC Symposium Opens Regional Dialogue
on Teaching Reading

collaged pictures of various people presenting and in discussion

PORTSMOUTH, NH: What do teachers need to know about teaching reading and when do they need to know it? More than 80 representatives from higher education, state departments of education, local school districts, and educational philanthropies gathered in Portsmouth recently to grapple with that question.

Early reports on "Partners In Literacy: Enhancing Teaching Quality in New England", the NECC's opening event of our regional initiative on teaching quality, suggest that participants left the June 5–6 symposium energized and focused on consensus and collaboration as the operative language for moving forward.

Creating a Common Knowledge Base

Many participants saw a need to create a common base of knowledge of reading instruction, motivated by glimpses of what other states and federal Reading First programs have been able to accomplish with a shared, scientific knowledge base. In addition to taking part in these information-rich, interactive presentations, participants also engaged in a series of facilitated discussions—across role groups and within state groups—to discuss current actions to enhance the teaching of reading and to map out possible future directions and collaborations.

At the conclusion of the symposium, representatives of the six New England states staked out some areas where they saw possibilities for concerted action. Noting that four states expressed interest in developing a common knowledge base, Carol Keirstead, Director of the NECC, said, "We can certainly provide some structures and supports to make that happen on a regional basis." Representatives of higher education expressed interested in creating an online environment to share syllabi, resources, and tools, Keirstead added, noting that, "That is something that we are poised to do as well. Our staff is knowledgeable about developing online learning spaces to support this work. So we are ready to take the next step."

Keynote Speaks of Instructional Success

Keynote speaker Catherine Snow of Harvard University, co-author of Knowledge to Support the Teaching Reading: Preparing Teachers for a Changing World (Jossey-Bass 2006), delivered a witty and cogent argument for building consensus around evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, of instructional success. Characterizing the ideal knowledge base as comprising "just in time" knowledge, Snow outlined the developmental stages in a teacher's professional development—the kinds of knowledge a teacher needs to draw on at those different stages. Listen to excerpts from Snow's presentation.

Director Reports on Teacher Quality Center Work

Amy Jackson, Deputy Director of the federal Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality described that her Center's work in evaluating research for teachers' use and suggested that a future focus for the Center may be to begin formal descriptions of the differentiated stages of teacher development. Read an interview of with Amy Jackson.

Panel Looks at Models in TX, CT and ME

image of seven people sitting in a row behind a long table

Photo (left to right): Charles Desmond, Michael Coyne, Betsy Fernandez, Betty Lou Whitford, Karen MacDonald, Melody Shank, and Jeanne Whynot-Vickers

A panel discussion led by Marty Hougen of the Texas Higher Education Collaborative, Michael Coyne of the University of Connecticut, and Betty Lou Whitford of the University of Southern Maine described how collaborations between higher education and state or local agencies can effect powerful changes in teaching. Read summaries and listen to audio of the three models.

Critical Friends Reflect

Mary-Beth Fafard of The Education Alliance at Brown University and Chris Dwyer, Vice President of RMC Research, offered their reflections as critical friends. Fafard heard four strong messages as she circulated among discussions, between state representatives and across role groups: No one at any level can do this alone. There is a real desire for a common language which captures usable knowledge about literacy and teacher development. Traditional ways of working together are giving way to cultural shifts. Assumptions are being questioned and challenged. Dwyer, who also listened in on discussions, came away with some observations about how groups will need to work to find the levers of leadership, the need—sooner or later—to address the content of reading instruction, and the desirability of challenging, questioning, drawing distinctions, and surfacing disagreements in the quest for a credible reading knowledge base. She also offered five indicators for change in our region: 1) states would have databases to track teachers' careers; 2) new teachers would be conversant with the scientific knowledge base on reading; 3) teachers would feel capable of aiding struggling readers; 4) educational practice at all levels would be transparent and public with shared syllabi and curricula the norm rather than the exception; and 5) the interplay across roles and across states would increase.