Author Archives: Pivot Learning

As featured in EdSource

EdSource asked more than 40 education leaders from across California’s education system to share their thoughts on Gov. Newsom’s sweeping budget proposals, which will set the direction for the state’s education priorities.

What impressed you the most about Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal?

Arun Ramanathan:
I’m thrilled the governor is investing more funding in education, and even more thrilled by his leadership in priority-setting. Before LCFF, there was a categorical program for everything. Local control solved that, but it wasn’t intended to remove the governor’s role in leading an education agenda — one reason why our student results in math and English are so poor. We need direction and focus on important levers such as curriculum and instruction. With this budget, the governor appropriately sets priorities in teacher training, improving high-need schools and special education. Now, the administration has the chance to lead in how to achieve those priorities, learning from the best work happening in California and other states.

Read the full article.

Also listen to Arun on this EdSource podcast. (You’ll find his remarks at minute 18:55.)

Webinar Date & Time: Wednesday, January 29 | 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.


Strong reading skills are the foundation of all academic success, yet African American students as a group score lower on most standardized tests than white students. In spite of the 2000 National Reading Panel’s conclusions that students need direct, explicit instruction that teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, educational institutions are failing to implement the Reading Panel’s findings. University training has been inadequate, forcing K-12 systems to fill classrooms with under-prepared teachers who then receive little support, training, or aligned materials.

African American students suffer disproportionately when not taught to read using evidence-based practices that leverage research. During this provocative hour-long webinar, Kareem Weaver, Member of the NAACP Oakland Branch’s Education Committee, will discuss how:

  • The debate over reading philosophy has left key pillars of reading acquisition, especially critical for African-Americans, untaught
  • Expectations of African American students impact the timing and tenor of interventions that could prevent reading problems
  • Perceptions of intellectual capacity create a lens through which learning differences are interpreted by educator
  • Racism and bias within school systems influence policy and practices and create a tolerance for failure

It is critical that schools provide African American children that same opportunities to achieve academic success as other children. This webinar will provide insights into how to address the persistent issues that create the achievement gap, particularly the lack of quality, evidence-based reading instruction.

Can’t make the live webinar? No problem! Go ahead and register and we’ll send you an email the day after the webinar with a link to the recording.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) recently named Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE), a subsidiary of Pivot Learning, as one of the approved providers for research-based effective literacy instructional professional learning throughout the state. CORE will collaborate with district and school leaders to provide job-embedded professional learning based on the science of reading that leads to significant improvement in educator effectiveness.

CORE’s Elementary Reading Academy, based on the nationally recognized Teaching Reading Sourcebook,  coupled with coaching covers the content identified in Michigan’s Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy, K3. Brain research, linguistics and dyslexia information, and Structured Literacy Practices are also incorporated into ORE’s professional learning services. Working with CORE, educators will gain the knowledge and instructional skills to help all students, even English learners and those with dyslexia, become strong readers.

Last month, released reviews of five ELA Foundational Skills programs, evaluating them each based on the reading foundational skills called for, including whether or not the skills apply research-based practices and are presented systematically with explicit instruction.

Linda Diamond, president of our partner organization, CORE, was a reviewer and provided feedback on the development of the rubrics used to evaluate the various curriculum programs and also reviewed the detailed descriptions the reviewers used along with the rubrics. Five programs have been reviewed so far. We encourage you to read the reviews, especially if you’re currently using or considering implementing one of the programs.


Summary of the Reviews

The purpose of the reviews is to provide independent analyses of foundational skills programs so that educators can ensure they’re selecting strong, research-based supplemental reading curriculum. Unfortunately, the review revealed that none of the five programs fully meet expectations for alignment to college- and career-ready standards.

Partially Met Expectations for Alignment to College- and Career-Ready Standards:

  • The Fountas & Pinnell Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study System (Heinemann)
  • Puzzle Piece Phonics (Corwin Literacy)
  • Wilson Fundations (Wilson Language Training)

Did Not Meet Expectations for Alignment to College- and Career-Ready Standards:

  • Express Readers Foundational Reading Program (Express Readers)
  • Jolly Phonics (Jolly Learning)

In addition to the reports for each of the programs that have been reviewed, also provides a tool to compare programs.


Learn more about why is reviewing supplemental ELA Foundational Skills programs.

Educate78 recently took a deep dive into 2018-19 SBAC trends. Their analysis found that:

  • A majority of schools saw some gains in ELA and/or Math though
  • 32 schools in Oakland (26% of schools with scores) did not see positive gains in either ELA or Math.

With the majority of schools needing support of some kind, Educate78 reached out to Oakland-based education organizations, including Pivot Learning, to find out how Differentiated Assistance can be provided. Pivot’s CEO, Arun Ramanthan, shared Pivot’s approach to school improvement.

“Evaluating the context of the school, district, or organization on the front end is the most important step to effective differentiated assistance.

The data only tell you so much when you look at student achievement. The question is what’s driving those issues of student achievement?

The most fundamental way to determine that is to look at what’s going on with teaching and learning – what are the underpinnings organizationally around that. High teacher turnover? Teacher absences? New teachers? Where are teachers – and principals and other leaders inside the school – in terms of their development and alignment?

And there are some organizations that face much more basic challenges. I won’t name names, but we work with at least one district that’s faced state takeover. We’re working on very technical issues there. Stuff everybody else has already addressed. Just to be functional. They can’t do basic stuff like complete an IEP on-time. That’s one level of assistance. We need to get them a policies and procedures manual. If you start working on more complex things like classroom walkthroughs when you don’t have the technical stuff done, then you’re wasting your time.

If the systems are more higher functioning already, then you look at higher functioning levers:

  • Curriculum?
  • Schedules?
  • What supports and interventions are you providing to high-need students?
  • What are your prevention and intervention structures?
  • How are you providing teachers with support to take on these issues?

All of these are arranged along a continuum, and must be aligned. You can select a really good curriculum, but if teachers don’t use it, it’s useless. It’s a nuanced understanding within each organization. The context is deeply important.

Lastly, how many things are you trying to do all at once. Larger organizations, more often districts, try to do it all at once. Smaller organizations like charters tend to do it a little better by focusing on only three or four things. Even if you have a weak curriculum but implement it really well you might get better results than if you have a great curriculum and implement it very poorly.”

Read the full article from Educate78.

In October 2016 Michigan lawmakers passed Public Act 306 to ensure that all students are reading at benchmark by the end of 3rd grade. This Act didn’t take Lake Orion Community Schools by surprise. They had already been working hard to improve ELA instructional practices and increase reading achievement across the district. Not only have reading scores improved, but the district’s early literacy intervention program has received international recognition.

Watch this hour-long webinar produced by our partner CORE to learn more about Lake Orion’s effective early literacy intervention model.

Understanding how word-level reading develops and why some students struggle are valuable starting points for planning reading instruction and interventions. Knowing this puts educators in a good position to determine what aspect(s) of the reading process may be creating difficulties for children. This in turn, enables educators to provide intervention that is highly effective to minimize or eliminate the reading difficulty.

Watch this on-demand webinar featuring Dr. David Kilpatrick, Author of Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties, to learn:
– Common types of reading problems
– Best practices for assessing reading difficulties
– Which types of assessments can be used to identify individual struggling reader’s difficulties
– Specific interventions based on the different types of reading difficulties

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from an expert in the field of reading assessment and intervention.

Watch the webinar.

By Linda Diamond, President of CORE and Author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook

Students with disabilities are not making the achievement gains they should make. The achievement gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities has remained largely unchanged despite adaptive technologies and supposedly research-based methods. But we can improve outcomes for special education students by significantly improving general education and special education together.

Educators have long known that students with disabilities have not made the gains they should, despite placement in special education classes with individualized education plans or even mainstreaming into general education classrooms. The most recent 2017 NAEP confirms the persistence of this problem. As reported by Education Week (Christina Samuels, April 11, 2018), “Students with disabilities posted stagnant scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 and failed to close the gap with students not identified as having disabilities.”

Despite research-based methods and adaptive technologies, the achievement gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities has remained largely unchanged (University of Texas, “Is Progress Being Made Toward Closing the Achievement Gap in Special Education?”, Oct. 5, 2017). Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a free and equal education in the most inclusive environment possible (FAPE and LRE), little has improved. In fact, the most recent Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District, determined that every child needs “a chance to meet challenging objectives” (see my previous blog), but most special education students are not held to high expectations.

High-Quality General Education Leads to Progress for Special Education Students

High-quality general education leads to significant progress for special education students. The results of a new study of Boston Public Charter Schools by Elizabeth Setren confirms this claim. Indeed, she found that “attending a Boston charter school makes special education students 1.4 times more likely to score proficient or higher on their standardized tests, resulting in a 30% reduction of the special education achievement gap” (Brookings Report, “The Importance of high quality general education for students in special education”, Setren and Gordon, April 20, 2017). This finding is not really surprising. If overall teaching quality is better, then all students benefit.

Good Teaching First for Prevention and Achievement

This blog is not an argument for the benefits of charter schools; instead, it points to the importance of high quality first teaching both for prevention and to enable our most vulnerable students to excel. Schools where all students realize strong achievement generally have high expectations, aligned, evidence-based curricula, and expert teaching. This is precisely what is called for by implementing multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). If advocates for students with disabilities want them to have a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE), then we had better make sure that environment is of the highest quality. Mainstreaming students with disabilities into weak general education classrooms will do little to close the achievement gap for students with disabilities and will only make an already struggling teacher’s job more challenging.

Nonetheless, special education needs significant work as well. Special education teachers and paraprofessionals deserve high quality professional development, excellent materials, and the best possible support to enable them to help their struggling students, particularly students struggling with reading disabilities, the primary reason students are referred to special education in the first place. All too often special education teachers have been left out of school and district initiatives, and according to a recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, only 11 states require that special education teachers demonstrate knowledge of the science of reading as part of their preservice credentialing programs. In fact, in the best MTSS models, special education teachers and general education teachers work closely together supporting all students regardless of classification.

However, only focusing on special education at the exclusion of general education will simply perpetuate continued over-identification of students needing special education and over-representation by children of color in special education. We must work to simultaneously fix general education and make special education truly special.

Far too many schools struggle with unhealthy and uninspiring cultures for both students and educators. Teachers and administrators often feel overwhelmed and unsupported in their professional growth. If we’re serious about attracting, retaining and developing skillful and passionate educators, we must cultivate the type of culture in our schools where everyone is supported to grow. Join this hour-long webinar to hear how Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) is building just such a culture.

Joe Ashby, Principal at Monte Vista Elementary, will share his experience as part of a pilot project with Pivot Learning to measure MPUSD’s culture and systematically implement strategies to improve it. Joe will be joined by Robert Curtis, Vice President of Education Programs with Pivot Learning, and Andy Fleming, co-author of An Everyone Culture.

Watch the webinar to learn:

  • What a growth culture is, why it’s important, and why it has been largely ignored in education.
  • How the principles in the book An Everyone Culture can be an essential ingredient to truly begin to reinvent schools.
  • What strategies and techniques were implemented specifically at Monte Vista Elementary to support the adult development of teachers and staff.
  • Findings from Pivot Learning’s growth culture pilot project with MPUSD.

Fill out the form below to access the webinar.

Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education

Webinar: Casualties of War: Reading Science Denial and Racism’s Impact on African American Children

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 | 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET
Presented by Kareem Weaver, Member of the NAACP Oakland Branch’s Education Committee


Save the date for all of CORE’s 2020 webinars!

See a full list and register at

Check out CORE’s new 3rd edition of the popular Teaching Reading Sourcebook, with content updates and a brand new chapter on MTSS. Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures, 2nd Edition has also been revised with new, clearer test instructions and an easy-to-use format.

CORE is excited to be a reseller of the digiCOACH Advanced Teacher Coaching Platform. They will be integrating digiCOACH into their work with districts and schools to strengthen instructional practice and improve outcomes for all students. Learn more about digiCOACH.

You can learn more about CORE’s approach to professional learning, and gain insights and strategies, in their most recent newsletter and blog post written by CORE President Linda Diamond, A Standards-Aligned Curriculum with Excellent Implementation is Still Not Enough.

Also consider participating in CORE’s Online Elementary Reading Academy, a facilitated online, asynchronous course . New session starts Feb. 27, 2020. The course teaches educators the essential components of reading instruction with clear and explicit models immediately applicable to the classroom.

Check out these on-demand webinars, that you can view at your convenience: