Cumberland Public Schools

A District Turnaround Success Story!

“I was most resistant in the beginning. I thought we were doing all we could. Now we believe we can teach every child to read!”

Deborah Rude

Literacy Coach, B.F. Norton School

Overcoming Resistance

When Hill for Literacy began its work with the Cumberland Public Schools in 2009, teachers were resistant to changing their current ways. Superintendent Dr. Donna Morelle insisted that they give the HILL’s literacy initiative a chance, beginning a system-wide change in assessment, instruction, and professional development. Of the five elementary schools, teachers at Bernard F. Norton elementary school (B.F. Norton) were particularly concerned, and the thought of taking on more to do was overwhelming. They already worked tirelessly to provide a haven for many of the neediest children in the district, and did not feel that they needed “more programs” to help these children make reading progress.

With guidance from the HILL, initially in partnership with the Dunn Institute of Providence, RI, the leaders of the Cumberland Public Schools begin to focus on data collection to identify both student and teacher needs for training and change. Gradually, the teachers saw a difference, and they embraced the change. In a few short years, all of the schools were making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) with NECAP (Rhode Island’s comprehensive assessment) reading scores up dramatically in grades 3, 4, and 5.

Dramatic Turnaround

Specifically, the teachers and students of B.F. Norton experienced a turnaround in attitude and results. With 60% of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch, and 22% of its students as English Language Learners, B.F. Norton had the designation of “in need of improvement.” By the spring of 2012 it was meeting its AYP goals, and performing extremely well as compared to the other schools in the district. As demonstrated in the graph to the right, during the time that the HILL partnered with the Cumberland Public Schools, NECAP scores soared. This school transformed dramatically, from teacher attitude, to responsiveness to student need, to ultimately, student achievement.

THE GOAL: “Every teacher will be a master teacher of reading.”

“The HILL’s intensive literacy model engaged and inspired the entire district to achieve literacy success and some of the best year over year improvements in NECAP Reading scores in the state. I am proud of the changes we made on behalf of our students and glad we engaged the HILL to help us in this transformation.”

Donna Morelle

Former Superintendent, Cumberland Schools

How the HILL Helped Cumberland Achieve Success

The HILL is not a program, rather, it creates a climate of change, providing specific strategies to train and guide key leaders through a systematic process, so they can own and sustain literacy expertise. In Cumberland, HILL facilitators initially conducted a literacy audit, meeting with all the school administrators, teachers, and literacy leaders to assess existing literacy programs and identify strengths and challenges. Working from the recommendations of this literacy audit, the leaders developed a strategic plan for literacy reform, and established leadership teams at the district level to drive the literacy initiative.

Leaders established this goal for the Cumberland Literacy Initiative“Every teacher will be a master teacher of reading.”

From 2009-2012, the HILL led the development of an effective Response to Intervention (RtI) model for literacy instruction, creating a culture of assessment and data-centered decision-making throughout Cumberland’s five elementary schools. HILL-led accomplishments are listed below:

  • Adoption of a universal screener, a progress monitoring process and multiple sources diagnostic and curriculum-focused data.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive core curriculum employing data-based differentiation and several tiers of curricular support for struggling students.
  • Refinement of a data-centered decision-making process for placing students within tiers of support and moving them between tiers.
  • Opportunities for teachers to learn optimal research-based instructional practices and collaborate with their peers through coaching, modeling, and discussion.
  • Establishment of leadership teams at the district level to drive the literacy initiative.
  • Outreach to parents and community members as to current research behind the reading process and how teachers use best practices to implement the reading curriculum.

“This is how true, sustainable change is made. The administration, literacy coaches, and teachers of Cumberland Public Schools opened themselves to examine what they were doing to teach reading and literacy, and what they could do to enable better, more strategic readers and thus optimize student achievement in reading. They did it! It is amazing and fantastic to be able to celebrate such success!”

Shira Cohen-Goldberg

Lead HILL Facilitator of the Cumberland Literacy Initiative, HILL for Literacy

How Can I Help My Community?

We don’t take the challenge of teaching kids to read lightly: according the 2013 NAEP results, 66% of 4th graders fail to read at grade level each year and we know that we can help them. How? Working with leadership-oriented principals and superintendents, and supported by the highest-quality literacy professionals in the nation, HILL for Literacy helps schools transform into efficient, systemic platforms for literacy excellence. Contact us to find out how we can help your school or district today, or click below to learn more about how you can support our programs in your community!

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