SAGA Innovations


“Why Not Literacy Too?”


SAGA Innovations

SAGA Innovations focuses specifically on math because research shows that math achievement, especially in Grade 9, is a specific choke point in the pathway to graduation, but schools, prospective candidates, and districts who believe in our work always ask us one question, “Why not literacy too?” There is no doubt that liter­­acy is important. According to a study conducted in by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read—that’s roughly 14 percent of the population (Huffington Post, 2013). In addition, 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th-grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.

Because of the interest by schools and the clear need of literacy support, SAGA has set off to explore the effectiveness of high-dosage literacy instruction. We have a small pilot with 72 first grade elementary students at the LEARN Charter School in Chicago, IL. It is important to note that literacy is complex, and is not only measured by one’s ability to read, but other factors such as writing skills, communication, and fluency and comprehension. There are many factors that impact a person’s development in each of these areas. We do not expect to solve all of these challenges but are confident that we can play a key role in supporting schools, teachers and students.

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Pursuing a pilot was important for two reasons: 1) We want to make sure we that we get it right. This is an opportunity for us to refine the model and receive feedback; 2) We want to gather scientific evidence around the effectiveness of high-dosage literacy instruction. The University of Chicago is conducting a randomized study, which is the gold standard for scientific evaluations. This is the second year of the study and the preliminary results are extremely promising and may lead to an expansion of the model into additional schools so we can support more students and for continued research. The University of Chicago may publish their findings by Spring/Summer of 2018.

This pilot is led by, Lisa Rudin, who is the Site Director. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned a BA in Elementary Education and Masters of Education in Instructional Leadership: Literacy, Language, and Culture. Prior to joining SAGA in 2017, she spent 15 years teaching primary students in Chicago Public Schools. She also earned National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education, coached teachers in best practices in literacy instruction by integrating the arts, and mentored teachers in training. She manages the pilot and 6 Literacy Fellows at the LEARN site.

Read on to learn more about the experiences from two of our pioneering SAGA Literacy Fellows, Curtis Williams and Marley Weig-Pickering, and how you can stay involved!

What has been the highlight of your experience as a SAGA Literacy Fellow?

CW: Seeing the student’s growth and noting positive changes in their academics and behavior. We often see students go through a transformation once they enter Literacy Lab. Having that 1:1 attention and undivided support positively affects student’s ability to focus and make strides in their comprehension. You even see how it translates to their classroom!

What are some of the challenges you or your team have faced this year?

MWP: Overall, tailoring lessons that are well suited to students at different levels can be a challenge. We adjust, implement, and learn strategies to influence our lessons and instruction in order to support both students and maintain balance within the tutorial.

What support do you have as a SAGA Literacy Fellow?

CW: The team and Site Director are my biggest support! We bonded so fast and we all support and help each other whenever we can. From planning LLI lessons, creating activities, receiving feedback, and moving through any challenges that we may come across, we are there to lean on each other.

What are you most looking forward to in the school year ahead?
MWP: It’s only been a few months, and I’m excited about the progress our students have made and will continue to make based on what we have seen so far. I’m really happy with my team, my students, and truly enjoying my entire experience working with everyone!

If you’re interested in learning more about SAGA’s literacy pilot or want to stay connected to learn about opportunities to apply, please share your contact information here!

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