Author Archives: Pivot Learning

Universal screening for reading problems is the best way to identify and address reading difficulties. While there are a range of reading problems that can affect students, an estimated 5-17% of school-age children have dyslexia*. Most students with reading difficulties, including those with dyslexia, can be taught how to be strong readers. But before research-based instruction and intervention can take place, educators must identify which students are struggling and why.

During this hour-long on-demand webinar, Dr. Michelle Hosp, whose research focuses on reading and data-based decision making within MTSS, will provide insights into assessment for reading difficulties. You will learn:

  • How to identify the right assessment for the right purpose
  • How to assess the continuum of reading skills
  • Why assessment and intervention should focus on phonics skills
  • Strategies to link assessment data to instruction

Watch this webinar to deepen your understanding of the role of assessment in supporting students struggling to read.



*Pediatrics in Review, May 2003


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, discusses 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 the same opportunities to achieve academic success as other children. This webinar provides insights into how to address the persistent issues that create the achievement gap, particularly the lack of quality, evidence-based reading instruction.


Published by KQED News

Pivot Learning’s work with Monterey Peninsula Unified School District to develop a culture of adult learning was recently featured in KQED’s Mindshift. Harvard researchers have been studying the impact of what they call a “growth culture” on the effectiveness and productivity of companies. Now, they’re expanding that work into schools as a way to create powerful learning environments for students.

“The key thing is how do we make sure this connects with the mission critical work the schools are already doing? This can’t be extra,” said Robert Curtis, vice president of education programs at Pivot Learning.

Curtis understands that teachers and schools already have too many demands on their time. For a growth culture to take hold and actually change how adult learning in the district happens, it can’t be extra work. Instead, Curtis and others encouraged the four schools and one district department who volunteered to participate in the study to consider this a way to move forward on the issues that are already central to them.

“We’re trying to build the internal capacity for them to learn together and create a safe space for leaders to try things out,” Curtis said.

Pivot Learning chose Monterey for this study because it’s superintendent PK Diffenbaugh went through the Harvard leadership training and already believes in the power of growth culture. He was looking for ways to better support his staff to continue their learning journey, convinced by research that shows higher teacher satisfaction, retention and success when a school has a strong adult learning culture.

Read the full article.

Published by National Association of School Superintendents

Monica NgMonica Ng, Pivot Learning’s Director, Education Programs, recently shared details of Pivot Learning’s collaboration with Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (Monterey, CA),  Lancaster School District (Lancaster, CA) to pilot an innovative peer-to-peer learning model. Leadership teams from these two districts were provided the opportunity to learn strategies for leveraging multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) models to address the needs of at-risk student populations from educators in Sanger Unified School District (Sanger. CA), a national leader in the use of MTSS.

In many cases, school districts look to outside providers to offer support for the implementation of new initiatives. Through a generous grant from the Stuart Foundation, Pivot Learning was able to work with two California districts, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (Monterey) and Lancaster School District (Lancaster), to pilot an innovative peer-to-peer learning model. 

Monterey and Lancaster are high-poverty, high-need school districts with large numbers of foster and homeless youth. These students often “fell through the cracks” academically and behaviorally. Nationally, many school districts have sought to address the needs of at-risk student populations with multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) models that provide timely academic and behavior supports.  

Sanger Unified School District (Sanger), in California’s Central Valley, has garnered statewide and national acclaim for their MTSS system. Sanger was an early adopter of Response to Intervention (RtI), which it successfully used to reduce its inappropriate identification for special education and provide early interventions that showed in the district’s student level outcomes. Like every district, Sanger experiences the introduction of new initiatives and priorities. The district’s mindset has shifted to the idea of building an MTSS initiative and moving onto the next project, to using MTSS as a framework for all of their work.

Pivot Learning partnered with Sanger to provide peer support to Monterey and Lancaster. We developed an MOU with Sanger and purchased the time of two key leaders of its MTSS initiative. Monterey and Lancaster sent leadership teams to Sanger to learn more about Sanger’s work, and the three districts met as a community of practice. Additionally, Sanger provided virtual coaching and professional learning to the Monterey and Lancaster teams. 

At Pivot Learning, we use the user-centered design model for developing solutions to districts’ greatest challenges in achieving educational justice. This starts with the process of discovery and learning how the current system treats end-users — in this case, homeless and foster youth. It also starts with learning about best practices and the work of high-functioning systems like Sanger. Through closely examining data, conducting empathy interviews and focus groups, and considering research, each district built and tested MTSS prototypes focused on the needs of their most vulnerable students. They then received ongoing feedback from Sanger, and from each other, that they then used to refine prototypes before scaling them. 

We see the potential of these types of practitioner partnerships in many other areas of the work we do at Pivot Learning. There is tremendous expertise both inside and outside school districts that can and should be leveraged to accelerate efforts to improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps. We are excited to incorporate this peer-to-peer learning model into future projects and to continue looking for other district partners to work alongside us in building systemic solutions to our school system’s biggest challenges in achieving educational justice. Pivot Learning is a non-profit organization whose mission is to partner with educators to design and implement solutions to their greatest challenges in achieving educational justice. For more information, please contact Monica Ng at

When then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law in 2013, California’s leaders were hopeful that this legislation would set high expectations for flexibility, transparency, and equity within school districts.

In a new report, “English Language Learners and the Local Control Funding Formula: Implementation Challenges and Successes from Two District Cases,” released in partnership by Pivot Learning and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), Dr. Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz investigates how two California districts have been able to use the flexibility of the LCFF to serve students who are classified as English Language Learners (ELLs).

Both districts—Los Banos Unified School District in the Central Valley and Chino Valley Unified School District in the Inland Empire—showcase instances in which ELLs are benefitting from locally devised mechanisms and structures aimed at improving their education.

Los Banos Unified School District, located in Merced County, serves 11,075 students, with 3,200 designated as ELLs.[1] In Los Banos, the LCFF has allowed for the creation of dialogue and advocacy spaces that did not exist before.

  • In its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), Los Banos vows to provide additional professional development and assessment to track progress for ELLs. Nine specific actions in the LCAP impact ELLs directly, with five targeting them specifically.
  • The district set goals with regards to the involvement of ELL parents in the DELAC— likely contributing to an attendance rate increase of 16 percent in the 2018–19 school year.
  • A new, LCAP-funded position, ELL Coordinator, has led not only to compliance in ELL services but also to a renewed sense of community.
  • Both the LCAP and the ELL Master Plan are part of a coordinated process to advance the cause for equity in the district.
  • Moving forward, Chief Academic Officer, a new position starting in the 2019–20 school year, will increase instructional and ELL data-driven awareness among district leadership.

Chino Valley Unified School District, located in San Bernardino County, serves approximately 28,000 students, with 3,140 students designated as ELLs.[2] In Chino Valley, the plasticity of governance structures has allowed for the development of internal coherence. 

  • Chino Valley lists 59 actions in its LCAP that address ELL needs, though only four are exclusively targeted to support ELLs, including professional development, Designated English Language Development instruction, and the position of Access and Equity Coordinator.
  • Administrators are coordinating site plans and the LCAP, in order to move toward evidence-based action and greater interdepartmental collaboration.
  • The district has sought greater family involvement in LCAP development, including training site leaders.
  • The district is monitoring data, and identifiable intervention specialists and coaches support ELLs.
  • Chino Valley has implemented the Seal of Biliteracy and within two years is planning to open a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program—both advocated by families of ELLs.

Overall, stakeholder engagement has increased in both districts through the LCAP process. Additionally, several key levers have an important impact on whether and how ELLs are supported by district LCAPs, including meaningful stakeholder engagement and advocates on the ground.

  • In both districts, the appointment of leaders in charge of ELL services has had a direct impact on the quantity and quality of services provided to ELLs and their families through LCFF funds.
  • LCAP stakeholder engagement is critical for delivering the promise of the LCFF, and LCAPs promote equity initiatives but can take a pace slower than that of educational reformers.
  • Equity and meaningful stakeholder engagement call for explicit connections between LCAP funds and ELLs.

The LCFF process has brought both districts closer to realizing a growth vision well aligned with the ELL Roadmap framework, research, and the expectations of ELL advocates.

Read the Report

About the Author
Dr. Eduardo R. Muñoz-Muñoz is an Assistant Professor and the Bilingual Program Coordinator at the Lurie College of Education at San José State University, California. In his research, teaching, and practice, he engages with issues of linguistic access and educational opportunities from a policy ethnography stance. He regularly supports and advises districts and dual immersion programs on design and implementation issues pertaining to multilingualism.

About Pivot Learning
Founded in 1995, Pivot Learning is a nonprofit organization of K-12 education experts who work directly with districts to address their biggest challenges, including raising student achievement and closing unconscionably large achievement gaps. Pivot’s mission is to partner with educators to design and implement solutions to their greatest challenges in achieving educational justice. Pivot envisions a future where our public schools provide our most underserved students with an outstanding education.

About Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE)
PACE is an independent, non-partisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of California Davis, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of California Berkeley. PACE bridges the gap between research, policy, and practice, working with scholars from California’s leading universities and with state and local decision-makers to achieve improvement in performance and more equitable outcomes at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to postsecondary education and training.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Hannah Melincoe.

[1] Select ‘district’ for level and ‘enrollment’ for subject on the California Department of Education website ( Select year 2018–19.

[2] Select ‘district’ for level and ‘enrollment’ for subject on the California Department of Education website ( Select year 2018–19.

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.)

Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education

Webinar: Techniques to Tackle Math Word Problems

Thursday, March 12, 2020 | 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET | 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. PT
Presented by Dean Ballard, Director of Mathematics, CORE


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

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:

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.