The National Literacy Coalition (NLC) traces its roots to a small Colorado school district’s literacy journey beginning in the early 1990s. Struggling through many years of depressed student achievement complicated by contrasting philosophies, the national and state academic standards movement compelled collective dialog at levels never experienced before. After two years of exhaustive research on literacy programs and effective staff development practices, the need for a district-wide, differentiated approach emerged as the critical elements.
Beginning on a beautiful Colorado August morning, seventy-five enthusiastic educators assembled for intensive training in balanced methods of literacy teaching. Packed into a hot and stuffy church basement, these teachers and administrators emerged a week later rejuvenated and committed to challenging and supporting their children to achieve literacy success. The ensuing school term brought the first year of implementation. While the struggles were many, the results were striking.
This talented and committed group of teachers, program leaders, and administrators began to realize the impacts of this program almost immediately. As the curriculum director noted following an October visit to elementary classrooms, “there is more learning happening here than I have ever seen in my career.” Yet, it was not only the levels and consistency of literacy instruction that struck visitors; the levels of children’s personal knowledge and pride in their own learning touched the hearts of the entire school community. The Director of Literacy rightfully boasted, “We are changing this community forever.”
This transformed school community predictably yearned to “spread the good news” about their successes to fellow educators. Exhibiting an all but missionary zeal, teachers began to share their learnings with colleagues in formal and informal circles throughout the state. Given the vision of district leadership coupled with the need to continuously enhance the training and resources available to the staff, the NLC was born as an entrepreneurial venture with a single mission – to take the message of exemplary, school-wide literacy practices to every educator willing to listen.
Hundreds schools and thousands of educators later, the NLC is now helping students and educators along their own literacy journeys. A national model for school reform, the NLC supports curriculum development, training, ongoing support, and technical assistance to schools committed to a singular vision – all children can learn to read and write.