“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller wrote those words about the importance of collaboration over 100 years ago.
We hear the word “collaboration” constantly in education circles. Collaboration is one of the most important skills in 21st Century Learning. We collaborate in Professional Learning Communities. We teach our students to collaborate when problem solving. At the district level we attend many collaborative team meetings. However, for all this talk about collaboration, our school district had very little interdepartmental collaboration around the very important work of Literacy. Departments were working in silos. Academics, Title 1, English as a Second Language, Special Education, and Intervention Teams were working very hard to support schools and provide professional development to help increase reading scores on standardized tests. There were times when several different people from the district level would be out in the same school in one day, trying to support literacy, yet working in silos.
Recently, our district leaders decided to form a cross departmental team and develop a Professional Learning Community to support Literacy throughout the district. The Literacy Continuum of Support team was organized. This newly formed team consisted of 2 to 3 members each from the Academics, Title 1, ESL, SPED and Intervention teams. We developed norms for working together as a team and goals for communication. We spent time thinking about the connections, alignment and overlap of the departments to help shape future goals. Next the team developed a mission. The mission of the Literacy Continuum of Supports cross-department team is to collaborate in order to develop a common language and understanding, problem solve, and strategically align literacy supports and instruction with schools to improve access and outcomes for all students.
Then the team discussed the roles and responsibilities of our team. They are to function as a Professional Learning Community, engage in and guide schools in data literacy and analysis and problem solving. Additionally, the team will support schools in Tiers I, II and III of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework. The teams will strategically align resources and supports across departments and within schools. Finally, the team will collaboratively design, align and deliver Professional Development for schools based on data.
Our newly formed team has had two meetings, but already we have begun to work collaboratively in schools. We created a Google Doc for all team members to document visits, conversations and professional development provided to schools. Although this was a small thing, it should eliminate future duplication of resources, professional development and personnel in schools. It will also assist in stakeholders being knowledgeable of what is happening in each school.
The Literacy Continuum of Supports PLC will meet monthly throughout the school year to look at data and determine next steps. We are all very excited about where this collaborative effort will take us and hope it will be a model for other district level, academic teams in the future.
Although Helen’s partnership with Anne Sullivan was borne out of struggle and difficulty, Helen would have never learned to communicate, to read and to write without her collaboration with this great teacher. Later in life Helen wrote,
“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends.” As an outgrowth of the Literacy Continuum of Supports collaborative teaming, my hope is for ALL of the students in our district to feel like Helen.