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Educator Effectiveness

Final Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria

To:Massachusetts Sponsoring Organizations
From:Educator Effectiveness Team
Date:March 5, 2024

In July 2022, the Office of Educator Effectiveness shared an initial draft of the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria, and in October 2023 shared a revised draft for public comment. In this memo, we announce the release of the final Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria, along with a statement on what guides our work, a summary of Fall 2023 public comment, key updates, and additional resources.

What Guides Our Work

The Office of Educator Effectiveness defines effective educators as those who nurture and cultivate academic achievement, cultural and linguistic competence, sociopolitical awareness, and emotional intelligence. We are driven by our mission statement:

We work to create the conditions that support the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of a diverse and effective educator workforce so that all of our students thrive.

In accordance with this mission, we are releasing a set of program approval expectations specific to early literacy instruction for Early Childhood, Elementary, and Moderate Disabilities PK8 licensure programs to ensure that all prospective teachers are learning evidenced-based early literacy practices aligned to Mass Literacy. The ultimate goal of these expectations is that all students have access to educators who are well prepared in evidence-based early literacy instruction and can provide the necessary early literacy learning opportunities within schools and classrooms that are culturally responsive and sustaining to put our youngest students on a path toward literacy for life.

Fall 2023 Public Comment

On October 6, 2023, the Office of Educator Effectiveness released a draft of the revised Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria for public comment. The public comment period closed on December 14, 2023.

During this period, we received feedback from over 132 educator preparation personnel, preparation candidates, district and school leaders, current educators, and family members from across the Commonwealth through public comment survey, individual emails, and a series of roundtable discussions. Their feedback directly informed revisions to the expectations.

Across stakeholder groups, demographic groups, organization types, and geographical regions, stakeholders appreciated that the expectations are grounded in culturally responsive practices and deeply comprehensive of all of the interwoven components of literacy. These themes were clearly communicated in both survey comments and roundtable discussions, with statements such as:

  • "So excited to see this significant shift in early literacy instruction to evidence-based practices that are culturally and linguistically sustaining. Our students and their families deserve and have a right to this shift." — PK–12 Educator
  • "It is clear the early literacy program approval criteria have been updated to emphasize attention to the large, evolving body of evidence that elucidates how literacy skills develop and the instructional methods most likely to be effective (i.e., the science of reading) and culturally sustaining practices that value the contributions of individual students, their families, and their communities." — Educator Preparation Program Representative
  • "If early childhood teachers were prepared in alignment with these criteria I believe it would have a significant impact on student achievement and help close opportunity gaps." — Parent of a PK–12 Student
  • "The integration of culturally and linguistically diverse learners is well done. It is thoughtfully embedded throughout the document with explicit connections to evidence-based practices and the research on reading the entire time. Literacy is, and has always been, and issue of equity and social justice. It should be framed this way!" — Educator Preparation Program Representative

A full summary of public comment is included in Appendix E of the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria.

Updates to the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria

Many comments and questions shared during the public comment period sought clarity on the purpose and structure of the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria and/or the related program review process. Other comments highlighted the need to clearly articulate the research base for the criteria, specifically the research that supports a play-based approach to early literacy instruction and specific considerations for multilingual and bidialectal learners. In response to this feedback, revisions were made throughout the expectations, including:

  • Updates to the Introduction to clarify the purpose and scope of the criteria
  • Additional footnotes to clarify the format and organization of the document
  • A new appendix (Appendix F) to communicate the research base that supports each criteria, including relevant citations related to a play approach to early literacy instruction and the importance of centering multilingual and bidialectal learners
  • Two new appendices to articulate the review process for Early Childhood, Elementary, and Moderate Disabilities PK-8 licensure programs during the formal review process (Appendix B) or in a literacy-specific interim review (Appendix C).
  • Hyperlinks throughout the document to the glossary, connected research, and specific subsites in Mass Literacy for ease of navigating the criteria and making connections.

Timeline and Additional Resources

The expectation is that all Elementary, Early Childhood, and Moderate Disabilities PK–8 licensure programs will begin aligning these three programs to the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria in SY2024 – 2025.

  • DESE will collect attestations of alignment from all approved sponsoring organizations with one or more relevant licensure programs by December 31, 2024.
  • Formal reviews under the revised Guidelines for Educator Preparation Program Approval will launch in SY24-25 and will incorporate the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria.

Since launching the Early Literacy in Educator Preparation initiative in 2021 and the subsequent development process of the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria, we have provided multiple opportunities for sponsoring organizations to engage with the criteria and prepare to meet these new expectations, including no-cost early literacy formative feedback reviews, professional development for higher education faculty through OAPL and working groups, and communities of practice. Our office will continue to support sponsoring organizations in making the necessary programmatic shifts to align to the Early Literacy Program Approval Criteria.

Together, we can ensure that all educators are prepared with the tools they need for effective literacy instruction so that all PK–12 students have access to the evidence-based, culturally and linguistically sustaining literacy instruction they deserve.

In partnership,

The Office of Educator Effectiveness

Last Updated: March 5, 2024

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