Featured Projects

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

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.