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Mass Literacy

Mass Literacy: Empowering Educators and Students in Massachusetts Through Evidence-Based Early Literacy

The Background

In the Massachusetts school system today, some of our children receive the instruction and support they need to develop a strong foundation for literacy — and some don't. Only about half of Massachusetts third-graders today are meeting literacy expectations. This statistic reflects not student effort or ability, but opportunity and support to learn. To achieve equity, every student in our schools must receive the high-quality curriculum and evidence-based instruction they need and deserve.

Starting in 2018, staff in the Department's Office of Literacy and Humanities engaged educators and other stakeholders statewide to develop the Department's Literacy Strategic Plan, which is entitled An Excellent Education in ELA and Literacy for All. This strategic plan responds to the concerns of educators along with ELA/Literacy achievement data. As a result, it identifies two areas of focus for the Department's instructional support for English Language Arts and Literacy: high-quality core instruction and evidence-based early literacy.

A Focus on Evidence-Based Early Literacy

To address the need for enhanced early literacy instruction, over the next several years the Department will issue guidance for early literacy programming paired with implementation supports, including resources, professional development, and grants. The guidance on this website serves three purposes:

  • To provide information about literacy acquisition and instruction that is based in current evidence
  • To describe evidence-based literacy practices that DESE seeks to see used in schools, and taught in educator preparation programs
  • To compile quality instructional resources and useful references to support educators.

The Process

The development of the Mass Literacy guide spanned 9 months and was informed by a wide range of stakeholders, passionate about early literacy instruction and student learning. A 45-member team of "Literacy Champions" advised DESE on the components, structure, and content of the guide. These Champions included classroom teachers, literacy coaches, reading specialists, speech and language pathologists, curriculum directors, school and district administrators, and educator preparation faculty from across Massachusetts. Eleven researchers with a variety of specializations related to early literacy provided advisement. Numerous additional higher education faculty, public school educators, and colleagues from 10 partner organizations advised further on the guide's organization, content, scope, and accuracy. This comprehensive guide is responsive to student data, informed by the voices of Massachusetts educators, and aligned to the scientific evidence base for early literacy instruction.

For more about this process, please see the June 30, 2020 Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Board memo (agenda item 2).

Contact Us

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Sincere thanks to the individuals who contributed their valuable time, ideas, enthusiasm, and expertise to the creation of this guide.

Research Advisors

  • Sonia Cabell, Florida State University/Florida Center for Reading Research
  • Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES), University of Houston
  • Michael Coyne, University of Connecticut
  • Barbara Foorman, Florida State University/Florida Center for Reading Research (retired)
  • Nadine Gaab, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Norma Hancock, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
  • Tiffany Hogan, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
  • David Kilpatrick, State University of New York College at Cortland
  • Heidi Anne Mesmer, Virginia Tech
  • Louisa Moats (retired)
  • Nicole Patton Terry, Florida State University/Florida Center for Reading Research
  • Kathy Rastle, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Timothy Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago

Massachusetts Educators

  • Holly Banusiewicz, Wilmington Public Schools
  • Carolynne Beless, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District
  • Jennifer Borden Fleischmann, Mansfield Public Schools
  • Rebecca Brand, Marblehead Public Schools
  • Hanora Broderick, South Shore Charter Public School
  • Beverly L. Bruce, South Shore Charter Public School
  • Mary Kate Buchanan, Fitchburg Public Schools
  • Bethany Buron, Berkley Public Schools
  • Christina Cassano, Salem State University
  • Brent Conway, Pentucket Regional School District
  • Marlene Correia, Bridgewater State University
  • Karen Danforth Diaz, West Springfield Public Schools
  • Catherine DesRoche, Milton Public Schools
  • Amy Dobski, Westford Public Schools
  • Shauntell Dunbar, Boston Public Schools
  • Leandra Elion, Tufts University
  • Krista Erikson, Gordon College
  • Hayley Finn, Arlington Public Schools
  • Patrick Flaherty, Winchester Public Schools
  • Oneida Fox-Roye, Boston Public Schools
  • Melissa Francis, Gloucester Public Schools
  • Liz Garden, Wachusett Regional School District
  • Robin Gleason, Pentucket Regional School District
  • Megan Gregory, Scituate Public Schools
  • Terri Griffin, Westfield State University
  • Stephanie Grimaldi, Westfield State University
  • Lisa Hanifan, Malden Public Schools
  • Kristin Howell, Medford Public Schools
  • Patricia Kelley, Milford Public Schools
  • Deana Lew, Newton Public Schools
  • Lisa Maucione, Dartmouth Public Schools
  • Jennifer Mazzola, Lynn Public Schools
  • Susan McCabe, Avon Public Schools
  • Suzannah Meyer Campbell, Medford Public Schools
  • Kelly Morrison, Fitchburg Public Schools
  • Priscilla Nelson, Gordon College
  • Holly O'Connor, Leicester Public Schools
  • Tracy Oliveira, Dartmouth Public Schools
  • Mariela Páez, Boston College
  • Lauren Parker, Rockland Public Schools
  • Kristin Parone, Grafton Public Schools
  • Patrick Proctor, Boston College
  • Christine Pruitt, Easton Public Schools
  • Lisa Rice, Grafton Public Schools
  • Julie Riley, Manchester Essex Public Schools
  • Deborah Rooney, Canton Public Schools
  • Sharon Ryan, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District
  • Kimberly Simonich, North Middlesex Regional School District
  • Heather Smith, Dedham Public Schools
  • Wendy Sprague, Woburn Public Schools
  • Jennifer Stratton, Bay Path University
  • Jenn Traverso, Westford Public Schools
  • Beth Villani, Pentucket Regional School District
  • Jennifer Vitarisi, North Andover Public Schools
  • Stefanie West, Norwood Public Schools
  • Donna Wilbur, Rockland Public Schools
  • Elizabeth Wolfson, Boston Public Schools

Partner Organizations

  • Jocelyn Bowne, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
  • Sophia Boyer, BlackPrint
  • Darci Burns, Hill for Literacy
  • Shira Cohen-Goldberg, Hill for Literacy
  • Nancy Duggan, Decoding Dyslexia MA
  • Margie Gillis, Literacy How
  • Sally Grimes, Grimes Reading Institute
  • Katie Novak, Novak Education Consulting
  • Melissa Orkin, Crafting Minds Group
  • Kristan Rodriguez, Rodriguez Educational Consulting Agency (RECA)
  • Joan Sedita, Keys to Literacy
  • Janet Stratton, The Reading Institute

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • Komal Bhasin, Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning
  • Susan Fischer, Systems for Student Success
  • Heather Richard, Statewide Systems of Support
  • Andrea Ricotta, Systems for Student Success
  • April Rist, Statewide System of Support
  • Angela Sangeorge, Statewide Systems of Support
  • Rebecca Shor, Systems for Student Success
  • Emily Taylor, Office of Student and Family Support
  • Kris Taylor, Statewide System of Support
  • Donna Traynham, Office of Student and Family Support
  • Martha Wiley, Statewide Systems of Support

Last Updated: December 18, 2020

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.