“Georgia is in the forefront of the nation because the Get Georgia Reading Campaign utilizes the latest and greatest research on how to change trajectories for lifelong learning and development. By looking holistically at children’s family support, language, physical and mental well-being, learning climate, and literacy instruction, we can create sustainable locally driven partnerships that are supported by state-of-the-art technology and coordinated resources. The GaDOE is seeking to offer a holistic education for all children in the state. This holistic perspective values each and every child as a human and as a learner. The Get Georgia Reading Campaign pulls these ideals together and creates an impetus for wraparound services that will get every child reading.”

Richard Woods, State Superintendent

“We created the GaDOE Literacy Plan as a way of connecting the various divisions inside our department that play a role in ensuring all children in Georgia become proficient readers by the end of third grade. We also realize literacy is just one milestone on a child’s path to success throughout school and life—a critical milestone. The Campaign’s four pillars are a powerful resource for me in my role because they will enhance our efforts to deliver instruction in all content areas, helping today’s children become literate and engaged leaders in the future. We are breaking the mold for how states promote literacy. Instead of focusing solely on improving reading instruction, we are addressing the wide array of indicators associated with language and literacy development, from access to quality early learning programs and summer meals to health care and school disciplinary practices. Together, through the Campaign, we are changing children’s lives. If we can get this right, we can address intergenerational poverty—one of the biggest issues we face as a society today.”

Dr. Caitlin Dooley, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

“The Campaign has influenced a major change in how we view the connectivity between and among those elements and factors that impact reading. There is a role for everyone in this effort—parents talking with their babies; agencies and providers making medical and mental health services accessible to children; ensuring a positive school climate from preschool to high school; giving teachers the tools to recognize, understand, and teach children of all ages. The strategies that are project-based, program-based, and deficit-based are being replaced with population-based frameworks that impact more children while supporting individual needs of children, which not only meets the needs of more children but also addresses the lack of sustainability. If we cannot sustain our efforts, children suffer—and the suffering must end. It’s time to recognize this is essential work because it’s ultimately about the quality of life for our children. A person’s quality of life can be determined by the ability or inability to read. We must shift from a goal for all children to learn to read proficiently to an expectation that they will learn to read proficiently by providing each child with a constellation of support built from the four pillars.”

Dr. Garry McGiboney, Deputy Superintendent for the Office of School Safety

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) has adopted the Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s four-pillar framework for connecting the state’s districts and communities with resources and high-quality instruction. Schools, communities, and families can come together to meet their mission: “Educating Georgia’s future by graduating students who are ready to learn, ready to live, and ready to lead.”

The GaDOE’s strategic plan includes specific measurable outcomes and deliverables that relate to third-grade reading including:

  • increasing the percentage of third graders achieving a Lexile measure equal to or greater than 650,
  • developing a statewide literacy plan,
  • developing a plan to match the purpose of professional learning to intended outcomes, including outcomes related to literacy instruction,
  • increasing the percentage of third graders scoring at Proficient Learner or Distinguished Learner levels on the Georgia Milestones Reading Assessment, and
  • increasing the number of schools with a safe, healthy, and positive learning climate.

The four pillars have been adopted by the GaDOE to drive its strategic plan; guide evaluation of implementation measures; link each division within the department in order to operationalize the interconnectivity of its work in a manner that keeps the focus on supporting schools, teachers, leaders, and parents; and provide a platform that allows the evolution of a dynamic strategic plan that’s clear enough to be understood, strong enough to be effective, and agile enough to adopt to changes that are necessary to sustain progress that’s ultimately measured by student success and students’ opportunities for a quality of life that is productive, secure, safe, and rewarding.

The GaDOE has an internal task force committed to reviewing elements of the statewide literacy plan quarterly, and they are using it to leverage cross-divisional resources to shape their work to promote literacy. The department is also working across state agencies to coordinate efforts and ensure policies and programs are designed with literacy development in mind.

Promoting a positive school climate is a major element of their strategic plan. When students feel secure in their schools and develop positive relationships with the adults who teach and care for them, they want to attend school and can better focus on learning in the classroom. Teachers also benefit with research showing that as school climate improves, teacher retention and job satisfaction increase.

The GaDOE is working with our Campaign to engage communities and districts across the state in conversations about what the pillars mean and how they can utilize supports made possible through the combined efforts of multiple state agencies to apply the four pillars to spur literacy improvements.

They also provide guidance to more than 600 schools across the state to help them identify positive elements of their school’s climate as well as elements that might be compromising it. The School Climate Star Rating, based on student, parent, and teacher feedback as well as student discipline and attendance data, is a valuable diagnostic tool that schools can use to strengthen their improvement plans and through which Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) can provide a framework for sustainable change. Helping schools promote positive learning climates has become a core function of the GaDOE and is tied directly to core functions that aim to improve academic outcomes for students.

In 2017, the First Priority Act launched the Chief Turnaround Office to work with the state’s lowest-ranking schools to remove barriers to education and raise student performance. Dr. Eric Thomas closely partners with the Campaign to engage and support struggling schools, which has helped shaped the theory of action that anchors their strategic system of support. The Campaign’s four pillars are explicitly embedded in that. For example, student health screenings are conducted to identify communication and language barriers.

The Turnaround Office partners with agencies and organizations to ensure students and families have access to services, and has leveraged the Campaigns research and resources regarding developing a positive learning climate. The Turnaround Office works with districts, higher education, and nonprofits to execute a strategic approach to recruit, onboard, develop, and retain highly effective teachers for the schools that need them the most.

Hear a powerful story from Dr. Garry McGiboney that illustrates why it’s time we hold all schools in Georgia up to more exacting standards about climate, and listen to Dr. Caitlin Dooley speak about what we should see and hear in classrooms when there’s good instruction—and one strategy we can use to help teachers get to that point.

To learn more about GaDOE, visit their website.