Building and Sustaining Capacity for Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction Leads to Improved Student

School Profile

Salisbury Elementary School is part of the Triton Regional School District in Massachusetts. It is a Title 1 school with 575 students from pre-K through grade 6. Students with disabilities make up 12% of the population.

The Goal and the Process

Inspired by the philosophy of the DuFours, the school embarked on the following process:

  1. Identify their greatest need (achieved in Academic Year 1)

    • Response: After reviewing student data, the school identified literacy as their greatest need.
    • Supporting evidence: In K-1, 50% or less of students were reading at benchmark. In grades 2-3, the number of students meeting reading benchmarks was higher, but the results were inconsistent. The school had been implementing many different approaches to reading but with little success.

  2. Develop a plan to provide students with the educational experiences that were likely to address their greatest need (achieved in Academic Year 1)

    • Response: Leadership was determined and committed to ensuring all students met reading benchmarks. One component of the school’s solution was the selection of a new evidence-based reading and spelling program, Wilson Fundations®. The school developed a literacy plan to implement Fundations within an RTI Framework.

  3. Organize the school to ensure appropriate implementation of the plan (achieved in Academic Year 2 for grades K-2, and in Academic Year 3 for grade 3)

    • Response: The school emphasized teaching the core curriculum with fidelity through collaborative work by data coaches and professional development for teachers and reading specialists:
      • Teachers and reading specialists were fully trained, with periodic implementation support and fidelity checks.
      • School-based coaching was provided with the coach co-teaching with new teachers.
      • Teachers were provided opportunities for peer observation and observing a more experienced teacher.
      • All were on board: administration, Title 1 director, reading specialist, and data coaches

  4. Evaluate their efforts*

    • Response: The school collects data from multiple sources, including DRA 2, DIBELs, GRADE assessments, Fundations unit assessments progress-monitoring probes for students receiving interventions. The data coaches receive data monthly by grade level, and facilitate monthly meetings to discuss the results. For additional information, read the section, “Data Meetings/Progress Monitoring,” below.
    *Note: According to Implementation Science research, complex programs take approximately 2-4 academic years to achieve full implementation.Therefore, early evaluations should themselves be evaluated with caution.

Implementing a Multi-tiered System of Support

Developed a Standard Tier 1 Literacy Block:
  • All primary students received an uninterrupted 90-120 minute literacy block in the morning.
  • All K-3 students received Fundations as a word study block within the core literacy block.

Developed a Master Schedule to Meet Student Needs:
  • In addition to an uninterrupted literacy and math block, the schedule provided for protected intervention time—a 45-minute period called WIN Time (“What I Need”).
  • The schedule also provided an extra 35 minutes of weekly collaborative planning time for staff at the start of the day. This gave teachers the opportunity to co-write lesson plans and study together, reinforcing the idea that everyone was in this together and encouraged to learn new things.

Identified Students Scoring Below Benchmark:
  • All students are screened with DIBELs three times during the year. Students most “at risk” were scheduled for small group literacy intervention during WIN Time.
  • ELA Intervention Programs are held:
    • Grades K-3: Double Dose of Wilson Fundations (Tier 2)
    • Grades 1-2: Literacy intervention which includes leveled and decodable texts (Tier 2)
    • Grades 2-3: Wilson Intervention (Tier 3)
    • Grade 3: Scholastic Guided Reading Program Non-Fiction (Tier 2)

Data Meetings/Progress Monitoring:
  • The school collects data from multiple sources, including DRA 2, DIBELs, GRADE assessments, Fundations unit assessments, and Fundations progress monitoring probes for students receiving Tier 2 and 3 supports.
  • Each grade level has a designated data coach. Data is distributed to data coaches by grade level.
  • Data meetings facilitated by data coaches are held monthly after school and monthly during the school day.
  • Discussions are confidential. Staff celebrates student progress and uses the data to make instructional decisions.

Review/Revise Instruction:
  • Based on data meetings, groupings of students for intervention are adjusted as are the frequency or intensity of the intervention.


  • Staff resistance to changing instruction and routines—This challenge dissipated over time as data meetings clearly indicated student need and revealed that what was done in the past was not working. In addition, establishing a collaborative environment with coaching and support was critical.
  • Changing the Master School Schedule—Input was elicited from staff to establish buy-in.
  • Sustaining the momentum and training for new staff—Building the school’s internal capacity to coach and assess fidelity of instruction was essential.


The entire school is now organized around student success. Teachers continually address the individual needs of students using evidence-based practices. Data meetings are dynamic and focused with staff comfortable reviewing data and making data-based instructional decisions. Student outcomes have improved.

The 2011-2012 school year was the second full year of implementation for kindergarten, first and second grades. The DIBELS (core) data showed that at the beginning of kindergarten 50% of students were at or above benchmark. The year ended with 82% of the students meeting benchmark. There was even more growth in first grade as the grade began with only 39% at/above benchmark and ended with 83%. Second grade showed adequate results with 70% meeting benchmark at the end of the year. The first full year implementation of Level 3 yielded 84% of students meeting benchmark.


Keys to Success:

  • Vision—Creating a shared vision of student success.
  • Leadership—Recruiting and hiring the right staff, creating a collaborative environment to support staff, and creating a Master Schedule to support RTI.
  • Instruction—Improving evidence-based practices at Tier 1! Continually assessing fidelity of instruction at Tier 1 and Tier 2.
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