Featured Projects

January 2021 - Lower Yukon School District

Adverse challenges result in creative and innovative solutions for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program of the Lower Yukon School District (LYSD). One of these challenges is child readiness and preparedness when entering public school. The One Book Project, supported by the CLSD Grant, was launched in response to this substantial need for at-home learning materials for our youngest learners. The One Book learning boxes are designed, assembled and distributed monthly to the families of all kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students throughout LYSD.

Each month a new learning box or packet is distributed, filled with engaging materials that target early literacy, numeracy, and developmental skills. A story book is included with a reading star chart, bookmark and stickers. Additionally, the family will find the Family Connection flyer, written specifically for each month’s content as a guide for at-home learning. The Family Connection introduces strategies and tools that encourage activities and routines to support early literacy skills.

The project has solicited positive feedback from families and school sites alike. One encouraging message from a grandparent read, “I have had the privilege to look at some of your boxes for the young ones. Fantastic work. I love it. I see that my grandchildren would benefit, so that means all kids can benefit as well. My wife and I are very impressed.” The positive response from communities serve as a catalyst for continued creative problem solving in a time when face-to-face classroom instruction is not always possible.

Producing and shipping three hundred individual learning boxes each month is a big undertaking, but with the partnership of the Kusilvak Career Academy (KCA) this became a possibility for the ECE program. This strategic partnership with the district’s residential CTE program, located in Anchorage, allowed for high-school students attending KCA sessions to have the opportunity to participate in an on-the-job (OJT) experience assisting with the assembly and shipping of the One Book learning boxes. In addition, a media project is in development which will allow these students to create read-aloud videos and early learning activity tutorials.

This OJT experience introduces career opportunities in early childhood education, media exploration, and early learning support in the family environment. Perhaps even more importantly, these students are introduced to the world-changing difference they can make by reading to a child. Furthermore, the KCA students have been excited to work on projects that will be sent to their own villages and for some to a younger sibling.

The LYSD ECE program is convinced that by introducing a daily read-aloud routine in homes, a positive impact will be noted in the trajectory of school readiness and student learning. The One Book message states: Reading one book a day exposes a child to 78,000 words per year and 296,660 words by the age of five! One book…at a time!

To learn more about LYSD's One Book Project, contact Sandra Main at smain@lysd.org.

February 2021 - Southeast Island Consortium

Keijin (five) districts working together as tleix (one) comprise our Consortium Comprehensive Statewide Literacy Development (CLSD) Grant: Chatham School District, Hoonah School District, Pribilof School District, Southeast Island School District, and Yakutat School District.

We are a consortium of districts that have similar small, remote schools. Small schools face unique challenges as teachers have a wide range of ages and abilities in one classroom at the same time. Teachers in small schools need not only evidence-based instructional strategies but also classroom and data management expertise. The best literacy instruction comes from staff who understand how children learn and are confident in identifying needs and providing interventions. For this reason, we chose to focus the grant funds on professional development in best practices of literacy instruction with the goal of sustainability.

Through collaboration on professional development, our small districts can implement combined grant resources and provide professional development beyond the individual district budgets. Often in small or rural districts, the teachers do not have the opportunity to collaborate with educators who teach similar grade levels or content because they are the only teacher for that particular grade level or content area. A long-range goal is to provide collaboration opportunities for teachers and students across these five districts.

Parent information and engagement activities are a priority for schools. However, during the 2020-2021 school year, districts have faced challenges that have negatively impacted the ability to communicate and connect with families. Each school district is focused on parent engagement to meet the needs and health situations in the learning community.

Tlingit means “People of the tides.” Tides reflect constant change and reshaping of shores. The rhythm of life is connected to the strong influence and pull of the sea. Yet, for centuries, the traditions and culture remain constant.

We are reshaping literacy instruction to implement the constant, which is the vision that each of these five districts has for literacy education in their unique setting.

Specific professional development for 2020-2021 has included:

iReady: iReady has two parts: a diagnostic assessment and a personalized instruction path for each student. Diagnostic assessments are administered three times a year to monitor specific growth and change within students’ literacy skills. The personalized instructional pathway includes plans and materials for individual growth and options for grouping students based on needs. A multitude of teacher support options is available. Professional development for iReady during the 2020-2021 year will total 25 sessions using different combinations: each district receiving individual district professional development or, when schedules allow, districts will combine for professional development.

Literacy Modules: Literacy modules on evidence-based strategies for improving early literacy are developed with Lexie Domaradzki and will be recorded and available for implementation in future years. The literacy modules are designed for university credit with Arlie Swett, Consortium Literacy Consultant, and the facilitator for these courses.

Paraprofessional Professional Development: We are working with Iḷisaġvik College in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, to design opportunities for paraprofessionals, which leads to a two-year Associate’s Degree or a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. Iḷisaġvik has developed courses relevant to paraprofessional training. The curriculum requirements will include our Literacy Modules, which we are developing.

District Literacy Coaches: CLSD grant funds are dedicated to providing a .5 District Literacy Coach for each district. The responsibilities of this .5 position are flexible to meet the needs of each district, including: working directly with small groups of students in coordination with classroom teachers; providing in-person observations and relevant feedback on literacy instruction to classroom teachers; coordinating with the Superintendent for scheduling CLSD literacy professional development; implementation of iReady diagnostic assessments and the personalized instruction path for each student; parent and community engagement literacy opportunities; and a weekly zoom conversation with the District Literacy Coaches and the Consortium Literacy Consultant. The challenges and tasks for coordinating literacy work with five districts are building on the foundation of weekly, agenda-driven conversations.

For more information on Southeast Island Consortium contact Arlie Swett at arlie.swett@gmail.com

March 2021 - Fairbanks North Star Borough School District

Rhonda Harvey is the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s stellar Secondary Literacy Grant Coach. After working with students as an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher and as a district building coach, Ms. Harvey jumped at the opportunity to support every 7th-12th grade teacher at the ten secondary schools in the district. Helping teachers across all content areas is the driving mission, as supporting literacy is essential for student growth and learning in all subject areas. Therefore, teachers should feel capable and confident in teaching students with evidence-based literacy strategies no matter the subject area.

Ms. Harvey's first year in the position has been very different from the original vision. Rather than returning to in-person learning in the fall, the school board voted to continue remote-learning for the first semester of the school year. The decision for online learning meant developing resources to support teachers to improve the virtual learning experiences offered to students. Ms. Harvey has met with PLCs and other school groups virtually to promote the program and the vision of content-wide literacy practices at the secondary level. Ms. Harvey has also worked with individual teachers to adjust in-person practice to become more effective in the virtual learning environment. Investing in relationships and taking the time to build resources for both virtual and physical learning spaces, Ms. Harvey has quickly become an asset for many teachers in the district.

In late January, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District began bringing students back together in person. The decision to return to in-person learning was met with much joy and some trepidation. However, Ms. Harvey has started to visit different classrooms across the district to support teachers as educators learn how to teach students attending school remotely while also working with students in person.

Ms. Harvey has created an interactive literacy notebook for teachers at Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The interactive Google slides notebook was designed for all secondary teachers. Each section contains strategies to use in all classrooms and students while providing extra support to struggling readers. Throughout the document, there are links to handouts and tabs on each heading to transition quickly through sections. The notebook is organized based on the four quadrants of successful/struggling readers and the formula: Reading Comprehension = Linguistic Comprehension + Word Recognition. The notebook dives into three categories of struggling readers & six clusters of characterizations. The purpose of the interactive notebook is to give secondary teachers quick access to reliable resources and strategies to help struggling readers.

Ms. Harvey is looking forward to hosting a camp for teachers over the summer, which will provide opportunities to try strategies and practice different ways to support students in developing literacy skills. The educators involved will teach literacy strategies and interventions during an educational camp for secondary students. The learning experience will allow teachers to immediately practice skills with students, and obtain feedback from colleagues on best practices.

For more information contact Rhonda Harvey @ rhonda.harvey@k12northstar.org

April 2021 - Nenana City School

Hello, fellow AKCLSD subgrantees. We are Nenana City School, a combined K-12 local and boarding school located in Nenana, Alaska. Part of our plan to improve literacy in our student body includes Literacy Cafes. Literacy Cafes are meant to be an opportunity for parents and guardians to learn more about the science behind reading, receive support in helping their students learn to read, and provide other parental support as necessary.

While Literacy Cafes were written into our grant application, the concept did not fully develop until a group of interested staff members came together and created a vision for how they were to be implemented. Our Literacy Cafes are meant to serve families in the Nenana area, including all K-6 students and their families in Nenana City School and CyberLynx homeschool families in the surrounding area. The original idea was to host a monthly meeting at the school, where children and their parents would come in and be treated to food and good conversation. With full bellies, the idea was to split the students and parents up for a bit, providing students with some hands-on social-emotional activities based on the Brightways Learning curriculum. While students were getting some wiggles out, the parents would be meeting for information about literacy skills, a guest speaker, or a combination of the two. Finally, the Cafe would end with parents and students coming back together to read a provided book, using a strategy or two the parents just learned about.

Doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend an evening? Unfortunately, a global pandemic had other plans for us. While we’d like to get to some semblance of our original plan, our Literacy Cafes have taken on quite a different form this year. We are still using the same group of books, a series from an outfit called Dynamic Resources, but our Smart Start plans have not allowed us to host anything in our building. Instead, we chose to have a semi-virtual approach. Families who have signed up for our “Virtual Literacy Cafe” are provided a package every month with books for each student in their family, a one-sheet printout of a reading strategy appropriate for a beginning reader and a more experienced reader, and materials for an arts and crafts project related to the theme of the included books. While the idea is to keep students off screens and encourage a literacy-oriented family event, we also create and publish a video that walks families through each strategy included and often includes why the reading strategies are important.

While our participation is high, particularly for students enrolled in our building, the reality is that this approach is certainly less effective than our original plans. Thankfully, implementing a Virtual Literacy Cafe has provided us many learning opportunities. We have built capacity in our district to implement in-person Literacy Cafes next year more effectively, and we have expanded our initial designs to potentially including preschool-aged children. We hope to host in-person Literacy Cafes for our K-6 students and their families, partner with our local Head Start, and extend our Cafes' reach as much as possible.

Our Literacy Cafe initiative has probably been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, our team has attempted to meet our goals by providing students and families with books, materials, and videos to support literacy at home. While we’ve been happy to provide a Virtual Literacy Cafe, we are looking forward to the days we can invite students and families into the building for some warm food, good conversation, and the support and time they need to connect through reading.

Thank you guys for reading. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve approached Literacy Cafes or any of the materials we’ve used, please feel free to contact me at scalkin@nenanalynx.org.

May 2021 - Anchorage School District

Over the past few years, the problem of practice identified at ASD’s Service High School centered on strategically increasing student growth in the area of literacy (i.e. reading and evidence-based writing across content areas and grade levels) and ensuring all students have access to rigorous academic programs - especially in regard to underserved populations. The goal of this CLSD project, in conjunction with the essential work with Equal Opportunity Schools, is to significantly improve high school students’ literacy skills and knowledge while students are engaged and immersed in rigorous academic courses. In order to reach this broad goal, the following incremental literacy, equity, and access objectives remain at the forefront of the project and actions:

  • Increased levels of reading and writing proficiency

  • Increased access to college and career readiness

  • Increased AP course enrollment

  • Increased graduation rates

  • Decrease the need for intervention replacement courses

High school teachers often view themselves as teachers of content and often seek out evidence-based ways to effectively address the multifaceted needs of all their unique learners. Service High School staff and leadership recognize that targeted efforts to improve student growth require evidence-based approaches and actions such as: seeking comprehensive professional development, utilizing curriculum aligned with Common Core State Standards, providing ongoing, job-embedded instructional coaching to assist implementation efforts, and intentionally dedicating time and energy to collaborative planning in order to support the instructional shifts necessary to achieve this goal.

Purposeful Collaboration: During these first two years of the Service High School Literacy Project, supports were put in place to foster increased and purposeful collaboration for all teachers by designing and implementing professional learning communities (PLCs), which strengthen teacher collective efficacy. Collaboration of this nature provides dedicated opportunities for teachers to efficiently plan to respond to academic, behavioral, social, and emotional needs of students. Staff are provided with essential, ongoing professional development with an intentional focus on school-wide implementation of evidence-based instructional strategies and protocols (i.e.,Student Concern Protocol, teacher learning cycles). Levers 4 Learning Consulting has provided support throughout the process of designing and establishing these professional learning communities, protocols, and learning cycles. Most recently Service HS Departments utilized either the ‘Peeling the Onion’ Dilemma Analysis or the Consultancy Protocols to collaborate with each other about the prospect of simultaneously teaching students in a face-to-face environment with 360 minutes of synchronous class time while also teaching students in the same class online with only 60 minutes per week of synchronous class time via Zoom. Reports from departments were positive and indicated an appreciation for the use of protocols to facilitate productive, focused, collaborative meetings on topics of major interest. As a school, we hope to continue growing our capacity to use protocols as a major part of our PLCs and to leverage this capacity towards improving disciplinary literacy.

Professional Development: Ongoing professional learning plays a significant role in supporting the inclusion of school-wide, evidence-based strategy use. Department Chairs, 9th and 10th grade English teachers, and 9th and 10th grade Social Studies teachers received Reading Apprenticeship Essentials training, providing a school-wide common ground for evidence-based instructional literacy strategies to be used across grade and content areas. Department Chairs are influential and critical in helping to foster the use of these strategies within and across their departments and are essential at promoting and sustaining these literacy efforts in a cohesive, collaborative way.

Rigorous Core Curriculum and Infused Evidence-Based Literacy Strategies: Service High School has intentionally revamped their freshman and sophomore literacy experience by providing students the opportunity to receive grade-level appropriate instruction in heterogeneous classes with their peers. Implementation and intentional use of Pre-AP Frameworks are a critical literacy component, as they are designed to support all students across varying levels of abilities by meeting students at their academic levels, by scaffolding and differentiating materials, and challenging students to move forward academically. English and Social Studies teachers complete rigorous Pre-AP training modules to assist with the implementation of Pre-AP Frameworks in both Language Arts and Social Studies. These efforts,along with the Equal Opportunity Schools program (which includes student surveys regarding their barriers and bridges as to taking AP courses and other academically rigorous courses), foster an increased number of students enrolling in future AP courses, as well as addressing an equity and access issue opening up opportunities for ALL students to explore AP offerings. In addition to the Pre-AP Frameworks, freshman and sophomore students experience a new English curriculum, CollegeBoard SpringBoard, a rigorous, Common Core Standards-aligned curriculum which supports college and career readiness. This implementation at the 9th and 10th grade levels provides a continuation of strategy instruction and rigorous instruction which aligns with middle school and connects students to future AP pathways. Service English teachers participate in the CollegeBoard SpringBoard QuickStart Institute to support the implementation of this new curriculum and are supported with instructional coaching during their implementation efforts.

Intentional Data Monitoring: A dedicated Data Review Team provides monitoring of progress across the system to adjust to necessary shifts during the implementation process to ensure all students have access to rigorous academic programs and are making performance gains in the areas of reading and writing. These outcomes and success indicators are monitored and evaluated with iReady Diagnostic, MAP Growth, WIDA ACCESS, PEAKS, PSAT, ongoing common formative assessment data (Pre-AP and SpringBoard common assessments), as well as working with the Equal Opportunity Schools program to survey students for their interests and AP potential. Success for this project, in terms of building staff collective efficacy and use of evidence-based instructional strategies, are measured and reported using consistent protocols during collaboration time to provide information regarding increased effectiveness and satisfaction. Service High School uses student enrollment in order to determine intended increases in students taking AP courses, as well as see a reduction of students taking Tier 2 and Tier 3 courses.

Site-Based Instructional Coaching: With so many critical shifts in literacy instruction and the building of collective efficacy, this grant provides job-embedded, peer coaching to support ongoing implementation of literacy strategies, curriculum, instructional practices, and assessment. This has been a continued element which provides successful support throughout the onboarding of new evidence-based practices, curriculum,and systems change. Providing on-site instructional coaching during implementation in order to build consistency and sustainability has been accomplished through a .4 FTE position that meets regularly with teachers, assisting with planning, addressing questions with pacing, implementation and supports the review of student data to make necessary instructional adjustments.

With SHS staff and leadership dedication and attention to the goals, ASD is making strides to duplicate the positive results of these literacy efforts across other secondary sites in order to address student academic needs in the areas of reading and writing.

Despite the situational impacts of a global pandemic on the learning community, Service High School staff and leadership, serving upwards of 1500 students, continues to have an intentional focus on “a relentless pursuit of excellence in literacy to dramatically increase reading achievement.”

To learn more about ASD Service High School’s Literacy Project, contact Christine Dennis at Dennis_Christine@asdk12.org or Ellen Scott at Scott_Ellen@asdk12.org

September 2021 - Denali Borough School District

This spring in Denali Borough School District, we collectively engaged in supporting our students to share their learning through a specific student-engaged assessment strategy called Celebrations of Learning. Celebrations of Learning invite students to publicly engage and assess their learning experiences through reflection. We saw enhanced student engagement when our students were able to reflect on and take the lead of their work. Taking ownership of these experiences encouraged insight, self-assessment, and complex learning, and was especially nurtured when our students wondered about their learning publicly with others. Making learning public became an authentic purpose that empowered and motivated our students to care about the quality of their work.

Celebrations of Learning is a community event that nurtures classroom-based learning experiences that ensure that students are fully empowered in the process of understanding themselves as learners. Students presented high-quality products and performances that were often modeled after real-world formats and intended for audiences beyond the classroom.The ultimate intent of Celebrations of Learning was to invite students to reflect on and articulate what they have learned, questions they answered, the research they conducted, and areas of strength and struggle in order to understand and take ownership of their own growth as learners.

Eric Filardi, Principal, Anderson School

For many of us who sat in the audience and watched our students and teachers rise to this challenge, even in the middle of the pandemic, our enduring impressions are that we’ve never seen this kind of student presentation or this kind of reflection by our students. Their voices and the excitement and motivation they had for sharing about their learning left impressions in our hearts and built bridges with our communities and families.

“Celebrations of Learning provided our students the ability to reflect on this year. Through the challenges during the pandemic, they developed and grew. Watching the students’ Celebrations, I noticed the authentic nature of their reflections on what they learned and how the projects changed them for the better. They shared about their academic growth and how persevering through rounds of revision and feedback with their peers developed their character to become stronger humans. These are the moments that help us all commit to our mission of nurturing, inspiring and empowering today’s student to positively shape tomorrow’s world.”

Dan Polta, Superintendent, Denali Borough School District danpolta@dbsd.org

October 2021 - Kodiak Island Borough School District

The 2020-2021 school year brought challenges and opportunities to stretch and grow in new ways. When KIBSD’s Rural Schools was awarded an Alaska Comprehensive Literacy Development grant from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development during the 2019-2020 school year, we could not have predicted everything that was ahead of us. There were plenty of things that we had planned to do in our Reading English & Alutiiq Development (READ) project that we were just unable to do or had to get creative to reach our goals in new ways. One big accomplishment for our READ project was the hiring of Sperry “Guuitka” Ash as the grant-funded Literacy Specialist. Mr. Ash was brought on board to help support our teachers and students in literacy teaching and learning. We were most fortunate that Mr. Ash was also able to masterfully integrate the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) culture and culturally relevant teaching strategies into his work. When working to revise our Year 2 budget for our READ project, he shared an idea that he had been working to bring to fruition for several years, ever since he had learned of the idea from an Indigenous Language conference he had attended in Arizona. He had a dream of using Japanese style Kamishibai theater boxes and story cards to teach stories through the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) language, and introduce traditional stories and storytelling to our students. He was able to begin the process by working on lesson plans for five stories and purchasing a Kamishibai box while working for the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak. He mentioned this to me one day and we were able to integrate this into our READ project. We commissioned local builder, Seth Minyard, to build our story boxes and carrying cases for our five rural schools and our Rural Schools Office. We took the stories and commissioned the artwork for story cards by local Alutiiq artist, Hanna Sholl. Hanna also painted each land and waterscape scene unique to the community for which the theater box is destined. We partnered with the Alutiiq Museum to revise the language of the stories so that they are ready for printing our story cards. Together with our partners, our Sugpiaq version of Kamishibai story boxes became a reality. We call them “Quliyanguarwit”- Story Places. Mr. Ash states, “I was fortunate to hear traditional stories from our late grandma. This is a great way to introduce those stories in the classroom and help our students become carriers of our ancient unigkuat & quliyanguat. The ciqlluaq (sod house) design will help our students imagine stories, legends, and history as they were told in the barabara. We will place story cards on the screens and the teacher can retell traditional stories with visual images. The script will be on the back of each card to help guide the storyteller. Students can make story cards to present to the class. Using story cards to tell traditional stories supports reading and writing skills.” During the next years of the READ project, we look forward to teaching and practicing our stories and working with students to have them create their own stories and present them either through story cards, shadow puppets, or puppet shows.

Peggy Azuyak

Director of Rural Schools


November 2021 - Yukon Koyukuk School District

Kristi Burns is the State and Federal Programs Grants/Literacy/Early Learning Coordinator for Yukon Koyukuk School District. To provide evidence-based literacy resources to teachers, parents, and community members, Kristi creates a highly engaging monthly newsletter for YKSD.

"We have printed our monthly parent newsletter with special paper to encourage parents to place them on the fridge. Each newsletter has a genre focus, pictures of books within this genre, a reading challenge, and on the back, ideas on how to encourage reading within the home for birth to 12th grade.

The teacher newsletter works in conjunction with the parent newsletter by encouraging the same genre focus. This newsletter focuses on the five components of reading, testing techniques, and unique book report ideas with activities to promote those topics."

In addition to newsletters, we have just launched our Literacy website! This month our spotlight is on Merreline A. Kangas School! Please go to our website and click on YKSD is celebrating Literacy!"

For more information, feel free to contact Kristi Burns @ kburns@yksd.com