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  • Writer's pictureM. Kovack

The Doors are OPEN for Systemic Change - So Now What?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

The Science of Reading is one thing – systemic change, however, is quite another.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission will be releasing their Right to Read inquiry report tomorrow. This inquiry has been years in the making, digging deep into the human rights issues that impact students with reading disabilities. It is expected to include “detailed findings and recommendations for government, school boards, faculties of education and others on curriculum and instruction, early screening, reading interventions, accommodation, professional assessments and systemic issues” (OHRC, 2021).

There will be a livestream of this report on February 28th, 2022 at 11:00am:

The Science of Reading (SoR) is not something new. It is the term that has gained popularity and substance over the past couple of years as teachers learn for themselves what has essentially been kept from them for decades. As teachers begin to implement SoR/Structured Literacy with their students, teachers have been reaching out to me, to social media, and to their colleagues to share their disbelief, overwhelm, frustration, sadness, and concern about how much more they could have been doing to help their struggling readers throughout their careers, if only they had known. While the release of the Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read inquiry may not generate an instant awakening for all (as one really needs to experience first-hand the gains that are possible to believe it), it will almost certainly create an intensified beehive of activity trying to figure out what to do next.

So, what now?

Now that there has been a critical mass of teachers who have experienced the difference that structured literacy/science of reading practices make with all their students, what needs to happen? From the small tweaks to the massive systemic changes, there are going to be a lot of meetings about this.

In the past couple of days, I have found 4 things to share that have inspired me to keep the focus on moving forward rather than arguing about, or lamenting the past:

1) A 30-minute YouTube video of Brent Conway (assistant superintendent of the Pentucket Regional School District in Massachusetts) discussing “Leading a Tiered Systems Change” (SoR, 2022):

I loved this video. It was filled with practical information that I could sink my teeth into – a list of ‘big driving beliefs’ to guide us, a clear framework for systemic change, simple explanations of the big picture, comprehensive slides, and a clear direction for a literacy plan - all within a 30-minute time span. In a nutshell, we need excellent Tier 1 curricula that do not undermine intervention efforts. (ahem, not using 3-cueing for word recognition in Tier 1). I have just added a few possible Tier 1 programs to the Resources section of this website. Although I don’t think it is ideal to insist that teachers use a specific scripted program day in and day out, I do think it may be the most efficient way to give teachers some training to support them in implementing more effective approaches en masse. Conway also noted how difficult it was for even informed and open-minded teachers to change (judging by the Skippy the Frog posters still securely in place on classroom walls). Which brings me to…

2) Pamela Snow’s (February 26, 2022) latest blog: Leaving the Balanced Literacy Habit Behind: A theory of change:

Again, this is about changing our Tier 1 programming. And change in general. Snow discusses Prochaska & DiClemente’s (1986) Stages of Change model, and this just made me want to breathe a sigh of relief (It’s okay! Breathe! Change is a cycle, not a step-by-step process).

Snow also presents a terrific chart with “challenges that are happening” on one side, and “opportunities” for moving forward in the other. (e.g., Are you a disruptor? “…a teacher, school leader, parent, or allied health professional who asks questions and initiates discussions (neither of which are always welcome) about student data and performance…suggest[ing] that other approaches exist that should be explored…” Snow, 2022). This chart is like a little cheat sheet to help us relax under the pressure of old arguments, old approaches, and tired old results. If you read anything here, read the quote from Jeanne Chall (1960s) at the very bottom of the blog!! SO TRUE.

3) This!!!! (I think is going to take over the reading world and unify us all):

Wasowicz (2021). Learning by Design. Retrieved from

This is the best info-graphic I have seen in the field of literacy instruction. BRILLIANT!!! I think this is something that will unify the field of literacy instruction. It is a terrific expansion upon Scarborough's Reading Rope (2001), and sure to make literacy instruction easier to understand, and more comprehensive.

Dr. Jan Wasowicz (author of this info-graphic) is the founder, president, and CEO of Learning by Design. She is the author of SPELL-Links. Her listserv SPELLTalk is one of the best ways I was able to keep up to date with reading research & its interpretation over the years.

4) Data-Based Individualization in Reading (DBI) (Espinas & Fuchs, 2022)

(first article in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of The Reading League).

This article provides a framework with practical examples of how we can 1) use a validated Tier 1 program (that doesn’t undermine intervention strategies!); 2) progress monitor; 3) provide a diagnostic assessment; 4) adapt the intervention accordingly; 5) progress monitor, etc… I think that moving forward is going to be MUCH easier when we focus on the kinds of assessments we are using, and paying attention to when (and how) we need to modify our intervention. DATA of the progress of our students is going to be the most tangible way to demonstrate the effectiveness of new teaching approaches. You can’t argue with data! Well, it has been done, but if you are a teacher, seeing student improvement is the fastest route to change!


Espinas D. R. & Fuchs, L. S. (2022). Data-Based Individualization in Reading. The Reading League Journal, 3(1), 4-13.

Ontario Human Rights Commission (2022). Right to Read: Public inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities. Retrieved from

Prochaska J.O., Diclemente C.C. (1986) Toward a Comprehensive Model of Change. In: Miller W.R., Heather N. (eds) Treating Addictive Behaviors. Applied Clinical Psychology, vol 13. Springer, Boston, MA.

SoR – What I Should have Learning in College (2022). Brent Conway Assistant Superintendent Presents Leading A Tiered Systems Change. Retrieved from

Snow, P. (26, February 2022). The Snow Report. Leaving the Balanced Literacy habit behind: A theory of change. Retrieved from

Wasowicz (2021). The Language Literacy Network: The many language components that unify into skilled reading and writing. Learning by Design. Retrieved from

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