Haywood County Case Study

Students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade in rural Haywood County, Tennessee are getting an extra dose of reading instruction this year. But rather than bringing in external tutors or an additional reading program, Haywood County is doubling down on the existing people and resources that are already familiar to their children. 

In year three of implementing a new reading program -- EL Education English Language Arts -- teachers in the district have already spent a lot of time learning to use these high-quality materials well. Now, after a year and a half of COVID-related disruptions, the district had to determine how to get laser focused on the exact foundational skills each student needed and how to ensure each child had sufficient practice time to move those skills to mastery. To support this work, Haywood County collaborated with Instruction Partners to implement what the district has called “I Am a Reader and Writer Project.”

In essence, the project is high-dosage, high-impact tutoring that uses the Tier 1 curricular materials and nearly every adult in the school building and the children’s homes as a tutor. Here’s how it works:

  • Every day, ALL K-2 students receive 45 minutes to 1 hour of intensive tutoring.
  • All hands are on deck to tutor during this time, from classroom teachers, to educational assistants, to PE teachers, to school leaders. 
  • Caregivers follow-up with additional practice at home, on the order of 30 minutes to an hour a week. This practice reinforces the skills taught in tutoring and uses the same routines.
  • The classroom teacher serves as the gate-keeper for when a student progresses through the instructional sequence and communicates this with tutors and caregivers. 

To support this work to be effective, before the school year began Haywood County and Instruction Partners used the EL curriculum scope and sequence of foundational skills to develop very specific learning targets for each microphase (e.g., late partial alphabetic). They built progress monitoring forms to match, so that teachers could monitor and track each student’s progress against those targets. They provided teachers with training on how to ensure all small group instruction and student practice is laser focused on the individual skills each student is working to master. They guided teachers to use the progress monitoring forms to inform instructional planning and to make sure all tutors knew what to have students practice.

Though teachers had engaged in intensive training specific to the EL curriculum and more broadly related to the science of reading, the broader set of tutors had to be prepared to implement the instructional routines much more efficiently. To support them, Haywood County and Instruction Partners built guidance forms and are now developing brief, simple YouTube videos to demonstrate how to implement the interventions with students. Educational assistants also had the option to take a state-offered science of reading training, which deepened their understanding of why the interventions are designed as they are and work as well as they do.

Though it is early in the school year, and the COVID Delta variant continues to create challenges for Haywood County, they are hopeful that building capacity in the people in their school and community will pay dividends for their early elementary students.