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California Technical Assistance and Training


December 2015

Updated by: Linda Smetana

Created by: Kevin Feldman, February 2011


Reading is a part of the larger context of Academic Literacy. Academic Literacy is defined as the skills of reading/writing/speaking and listening that all work together across the content areas. This unified concept is clearly aligned with the Common Core Standards that use reading and literacy across the curricular areas and present both as a shared teaching responsibility.


The revision of the Reading/Literacy Priority Area was based on significant advances in the national research community concerning best practices to improve reading and literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening across the curriculum areas). Two critical examples are the National Institute of Education Sciences1 and the What Works Clearinghouse2, which provide resources to objectively evaluate programs and practices according to accepted rules of science. In addition, the creation of national Common Core Standards3 along with the move towards organizing interventions in a Response to Intervention (RTI)4 framework have created exciting and challenging new opportunities for improving outcomes for California’s students.

Key Aspects:

  1. Focus on Providing Explicit Reading & Language Arts Instruction for ALL Students, especially struggling readers. 
According to Archer & Hughes (2011), "Explicit instruction is characterized by a series of supports or scaffolds, whereby students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill, clear explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported practice with feedback until independent mastery has been achieved." Research has confirmed (Rupley et al. 2009) that explicit instruction is especially critical for struggling readers including English learners and students with special needs.
  2. Focus Reading Language Arts Instruction on the California Common Core Standards (CA CCSS). Researchers and practitioners have converged on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a rigorous example of what all students must know and be able to do in Reading/Language Arts. Adopted by California in 2010, key aspects include explicit instruction focused on; phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, listening and speaking across both literature and informational texts. Struggling students need to be taught to the same standards, however they will require increased instructional time, more carefully scaffolded instruction, additional feedback and practice.
  3. Focus on Response to Instruction & Intervention as a Site-based Strategy for Closing the Achievement Gap. Response to Instruction and Intervention RtI2) has emerged as a research supported model for organizing schools to support the full range of students. "In California, Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) is a systematic, data-driven approach to instruction that benefits every student. California has expanded the notion of Response to Intervention to RtI2. RtI2 is meant to communicate the full spectrum of instruction, from general core, to supplemental or intensive, to meet the academic and behavioral needs of students. RtI2 integrates resources from general education, categorical programs, and special education through a comprehensive system of core instruction and interventions to benefit every student." (CDE Philosophy & Definition of RtI2, 2009)

  4. Focus on the Use of Evidence-based Practices and Programs. California's focus on "Evidence Based Practices" reflects the national philosophy of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). The IES is charged with, "...identifying what works, what doesn't... to improve educational outcomes for all students, particularly those at risk of failure."
For too many years education has been buffeted by the winds of politics, fads, and subjective opinion. A national commitment to using "Evidence Based Practices" holds great promise in the development of "education science".
  5. Focus on Providing High Quality Site-based Professional Development. Improving the quality of reading and literacy instruction at the site level requires educators to move beyond the one shot “spray and pray” model of professional development. In alignment with the National Staff Development Council’s Professional Development Standards all educators deserve meaningful professional development to ensure “Evidence Based Practices” are manifest in every classroom.


Resources for Reading/Literacy Priority Area:

  1. The National Institute of Education Sciences
  2. The What Works Clearinghouse
  3. The national Common Core Standards
  4. A Response to Intervention (RTI) framework

  1. Focus on Providing Explicit Reading & Language Arts Instruction for ALL Students, especially struggling readers.

  3. Focus Reading Language Arts Instruction on the CCSS
    • Common Core Standards – Initiative website
      • The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.
    • Standards for Mathematics:
      • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) are pleased to present the final K-12 Common Core State Standards documents that our organizations have produced on behalf of 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. These English Language Arts and mathematics standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge and skills that high school graduates need to master to succeed in college and careers.
    • California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts and Literacy in History Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (adopted 2010 and modified 2013)
      • The CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy build on the previous state standards for English and Language Arts and the CA CCSS for English Language Arts. The CA CCSS help build creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, and communication.
    • CA CCSS: Mathematics (adopted 2010 and modified 2013)
      • The CA CCSS for Mathematics reflect the importance of focus, coherence and rigor as the guiding principles for mathematics instruction and learning as identified in the CA CCSS for Mathematics.
    • Application to Students with Disabilities
      • Students with disabilities who are eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for success in their post-school lives, including college and/or careers. These common standards provide an historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic content standards for students with disabilities.
    • CA CCSS Resources for Special Education
      • Resources, information and guidelines on the Common Core State Standards for the Special Education Community.
      • Includes links to symposiums, webnars, and links to recent publications. Identified as specific resources are links to National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities—Common Core State Standards, The Special Edge and articles from a variety of publications on the CA CCSS evidence-based instruction, IEPs, curriculum and instruction.
    • CA CCSS Resources
      • Information and frequently asked questions about the new academic content standards adopted by the State Board of Education on August 2, 2010.
      • CDE is offering a new online publication entitled, A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Five in California Public Schools. The publication is in an easy-to-reference format where all subjects are grouped together by grade levels, highlighting each content area and adopted California standards. The publication provides insightful, relevant narrative overviews for each subject section, and is designed to support California's transition to the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English-Language Arts. Other sections link this information to instructional resources, assessment, accountability, universal access, and closing the achievement gap.
    • It All Works Together or It Hardly Works At All: How a Common Core Curriculum Could Make Our Education System Run Like a Clock
      • A special issue of American Educator dedicated to exploring the details and possible implications of the Common Core.
    • Common Core: Now What?
      • This issue of Educational Leadership is devoted to the content and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. (December 2012/January 2013, Vol. 70 Issue 4).
    • Literacy Implementation Guidance for the ELA CCSS
      • Downloadable white paper that offers guidance on the implementation of CA CCSS including key terms, shifts in instructional focus, and areas of emphasis.
    • Council of the Great City Schools: Roadmaps to the Common Core
      • Parent roadmaps for the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics. Brochures are available in English and Spanish. Emphasis is on the content of what students will be learning and how parents can support their child's leaning in grades K-8.
    • The Parent Handbook for CA CCSS
      • The Parent Handbook for CA CCSS is now available in Spanish. The original publication in English was produced in 2011 by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association and the Sacramento County Office of Education. The Parent Handbook supports local school efforts for effective communication with parents, including school site councils, and parent involvement initiatives. It provides a detailed overview of what students will be learning in English-language Arts and mathematics programs that are aligned with CA CCSS.

  4. Focus on Response to Instruction and Intervention as a Site Based Strategy for Early Intervention and Closing the Achievement Gap
    • National Center on Response to Intervention
      • The center is led by a team of nationally recognized principal investigators. A distinguished National Advisory Committee provides conceptual support and feedback on the work of the center. The website includes annually updated lists of vetted tools for assessment (screening and progress monitoring) as well as research validated intervention programs.
    • RTI Action Network
      • The RTI Action Network is dedicated to the effective implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) in school districts nationwide. Our goal is to guide educators and families in the large-scale implementation of RTI so that each child has access to quality instruction and that struggling students including those with learning disabilities—are identified early and receive the necessary supports to be successful. The RTI Action Network is a program of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, funded by the Cisco Foundation and in partnership with the nation's leading education associations and top RTI experts.
    • The Office of Special Education Programs Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports:
      • The TA Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), established by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), US Department of Education provides states, districts, and schools with capacity-building information and technical assistance for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective schoolwide disciplinary practices. PBIS is the social-behavioral side of a comprehensive RTI model. This is the national clearinghouse for all things related to "RTI-Behavior".
    • California Department of Education Philosophy and Definition—Response to Instruction and Intervention
      • The California Department of Education's philosophy and definition of Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) provides a basis for understanding a systematic, data-driven approach to instruction believed to benefit every student in the effort to close the achievement gap.
      • A comprehensive research synthesis of best practices regarding Response to Intervention (RTI) in the primary grades. As with all Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Practice Guides, it provides five practical recommendations for elementary schools interested in implementing RTI.
    • Iowa Heartland Area Education Agencies Response to Intervention Project
      • Heartland's IDM framework draws heavily from practices related to response to intervention (RTI). Response to intervention is "an integrated approach to service delivery that encompasses general and special education" and includes "the practice of (1) providing high quality instruction/intervention matched to student needs, and (2) using learning rate over time and level of performance, to (3) make important educational decisions" (Batsche et al., 2005).
    • Florida Statewide Problem Solving/Response to Intervention Project
      • The Problem Solving (PS)/Response to Intervention (RTI) process is applied in a multi-tiered approach to providing services and interventions at increasingly intense levels based on student response to each intervention. The multi-tiered system involves three tiers of interventions for struggling students based upon level of need. The first tier (universal) consists of the core curriculum and general education program, which is based on evidence-based practices.
    • Tennessee State Personnel Development Grant
      • The Tennessee State Personnel Development Grant was developed to support students with special needs, from preschool through high school to develop the language, communication, mathematics, pre-literacy and literacy skills for academic achievement. Links are available for materials including manuals, implementation guides, modules, and training materials relating to RTI2 programs. Links are provided to a range of resources for parents, teachers, and other service providers.

  5. Focus on the Use of Evidence Based Practices and Programs
    • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
      • The mission of IES is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and share this information broadly.
    • What Works Clearinghouse
      • Through systematic reviews to identify rigorous research, the WWC provides educators with credible and reliable evidence that they can use to make informed decisions. Especially useful to identify programs and curricula that have credible research evidence supporting their efficacy.
    • Center on Instruction
      • Center on Instruction (COI) is a resource for the 16 Regional Comprehensive Centers as they serve state education leaders helping schools and districts close achievement gaps, raise student achievement, and improve teaching and learning for all students. Explore COI for syntheses of recent research, practitioner guides, professional development materials, tools for educators, and examples from the field.
    • Doing What Works
      • The mission of this site is to translate research-based practices into practical tools to improve classroom instruction. Classroom videos and other practical teacher resources based on evidence based instructional practices.
    • Best Evidence Encyclopedia
      • The Best Evidence Encyclopedia is a free website created by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE) under funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. It is intended to give educators and researchers fair and useful information about the strength of the evidence supporting a variety of programs available for students in grades K-12.
    • Florida Center for Reading Research
      • The mission of this site is to disseminate information about research-based practices related to literacy instruction and assessment for children in preschool through twelfth grade. The instructional materials for teachers and program evaluation section are particularly helpful to teachers and administrators.
    • Visible learning: what's good for the goose
      • This site offers research by John Hattie on visible learning and visible teaching based on a synthesis of 800 meta-analysis relating to achievement and the implications for instruction.
    • Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts
      • Center at University of Texas, Austin emphasizes the implementation of scientifically based research to improve instruction, with a focus on literacy instruction for all students including struggling readers, English language learners and special education students. Online professional materials are available for download.
    • Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk
      • This center focuses on the development and dissemination of empirically validated practices and resources for preventing educational risk and improving academic, behavioral and social outcomes for all learners. Publications and materials are available for download are arranged according to institute noted on the home page.

  6. Focus on Providing High Quality Site-based Professional Development
    • National Staff Development Council
      • The National Staff Development Council works with states and districts to create the infrastructure necessary to promote more effective and meaningful professional development. “Learningforward” is a professional learning association with links to journals, videos, and webnars that provide content for professional development and content for site, district and state levels.
    • Professional Learning Communities
      • The Southwest Educational Development Lab (SEDL) has created a comprehensive listing of resources to guide schools in creating Professional Learning Communities to foster “job-embedded” professional development that directly links teaching to student results via analyzing and then acting upon formative assessment data.
    • High Quality Professional Development for All Teachers
      • Paper outlining the elements implementation and evaluation of effective professional development for teachers and other school personnel.
      • IES (Institute of Education Sciences) Practice Guide describes five critical recommendations for how to turn around low performing schools by focusing on improving use of data to guide classroom instructional enhancement. Effective professional development is an essential aspect of this improvement process.
    • Harvard Achievement Gap Initiative
      • The Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) is a university-wide effort initiated by the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to focus academic research, public education, and innovative outreach activities toward eliminating achievement gaps and preparing youth academics and employment in the 21st century. Links are available to specific projects, reports, and proceedings. Pathways to Prosperity and Creating Pathways to Prosperity provide content on the development of multiple pathways leading from high school to postsecondary education or career training. Conference reports including How High Schools Become Exemplary and Getting It Done provide concrete examples of strategies for improving academic achievement.
    • WestEd
      • WestEd is a nonprofit research and development agency working at the national, state, and local levels to improve education and other important outcomes for children, youth and adults. Resources include webnars and professional development and reports on special projects. Free resources West/Ed offers include webnars, publications, and downloads in 12 areas including special education and literacy.