National Symposium on Reading for Understanding

On-screen: [ETS. CCSSO. Council of Chief State School Officers.]

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I'm T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS, and it is my privilege to be moderating this panel of the Reading for Understanding Initiative Conference.

Reading is an essential foundational skill for success in life. Six years ago, the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Services launched a major five-year research initiative to accelerate advances in our understanding of how to effectively address the problem of low reading achievement across pre-K to grade 12. They provided five-year grants to six teams of experts from across the country and tasked them to conduct basic research to identify underlying processes that contribute to comprehension, develop and evaluate instructional approaches, curricula, technology, and teacher professional development programs to improve reading comprehension for struggling readers and develop and validate assessments of reading comprehension. This webcast is the culminating activity in a two-day research symposium hosted by ETS and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bring forward the findings of these research teams and discuss the implications for moving forward.

Over the last day-and-a-half, approximately 160 educators, including lead practitioners from some two dozen states and policy leaders and representatives from companies that work in this space, have been learning about and discussing these projects.

Those of these you who are now joining this webcast can access the complete agenda and the earlier presentations by clicking on the link on your screen for more information. During this webcast, we want you to share your questions for the panel and your thoughts on key takeaways by using an online tool called sli.do. Just use your computer, tablet, or smart phone to connect to www.sli.do.com, enter the event code RFU — all caps, R-F-U — and join our online discussion. You'll be able to post questions you'd like me to ask the panel and to vote on questions and comments posted by others so that we can see which are resonating most across our audience.

With that introduction, let me begin by introducing our panel from left to right here: Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent of Michigan City Schools; Louis Gomez, who is Chair, Professor of Urban Schooling and Chair of the Education Department at UCLA; Irwin Kirsch, Co-director of the Opportunity Project at ETS; Carol Mahedy, English Language Arts Coach for grades four to eight in the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District in Massachusetts; James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Mississippi. I believe we've — Suzanne Wilson — I've skipped over Suzanne there by mistake — Professor and Director of Teacher Education at University of Connecticut.

What I'd like to do to start here is to ask each of our participants, starting with Barbara Eason-Watkins — and then I'm going to start with a practice focus and call on people who are in that part of the panel here — to comment in three or four minutes on the issues that you think, based upon what you've heard over the last day-and-a-half and what you've read in the various research briefs here, need more attention from a practice focus there. So Barbara, I am going to start with you here, again, and ask you for your comments.

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Schools, Indiana – I think the first question that would really be important for practitioners in the field is "How do we get to scale?" What we've heard over the past couple of days, I would say, are evidence of pockets of excellence, things that have really made a difference in smaller projects and classrooms across various schools, but how do we take that to scale across a school building or across a district so that it can really have a transformative effect?

The second thing that I think that's important is this whole issue of fidelity of implementation or fidelity of enactment, moving forward. How do we build the capacity — and we've heard about the need for not only teacher capacity building, but also capacity building among leadership, so that these efforts are able to be sustained not just with the teachers that are being served, but it becomes part of the culture of that school and the learning processes that take place.

And the final thing in terms of practice, clearly, there is a difference between the tension that school practitioners face, in terms of the sense of urgency for improvement that we get from state accountability systems, and in some cases, federal accountability systems. So how do we reconcile that with the research agenda, so that there is an opportunity for perhaps information being made available to school districts so that they could begin to make some progress on an interim basis before a five- or six-year period? Because in most cases, superintendents are only in a setting for three to five years, and so by the end of the project, it could be a whole new set of players in place, and there's not an opportunity to really build upon that whole process.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Those are really important points. I just want to note to our audience both here and through the webcast that some of these have been surfacing throughout the day-and-a-half here, and so now, we're getting a clearer look at them. Jim Purpura, I want to ask you next, what's your take? You've been listening to all of these things here. What specific practice focus do you think needs to receive more emphasis now?

James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – First of all, I'm not a reading specialist. I am an applied linguist. And so for me, these last couple of days have been really very interesting because I'm very interested in language and the linguistic resources of language use. Some of the things that I've heard were "Is the role of language in being able to understand literal implied meanings that we derived from text?" This, for me, is reading ability, is language use, and there seems to be some issues about how we define that language ability. Some people have been defining it as vocabulary and syntax. Others have been defining it as interpretive understandings. From a practical perspective, I think we really need to engage in terms of "What exactly is the construct that we're trying to look at?" So that's one piece.

Another piece is we need to have the construct understood, and we need to be able to really engage with that construct, because if teachers are then going to — if we expect teachers to teach that construct, we need to be able to have them have a very clear understanding of what it is to have these linguistic resources in order to be able to interpret meanings in texts. There's a teacher education component that really is critical in terms of just what it is, the language piece, but also, there's an assessment literacy component that teachers may or may not have had formal training in assessment. I've heard that, how do we get teachers up to snuff, across the couple of days.

Then finally, from a practical perspective — because I'm an applied linguist, and I've learned a lot of languages, and I've had to deal with this from learning how to read in other languages — is the question of "What do we do with the English language learners that are in our schools right now?" The model of first language literacy is not necessarily the same as the model we have that underpins second language literacy. From a practical perspective and a research perspective, I'd like to see these six groups come together and to talk about what it is and how we can broaden the construct of L1 [first language] literacy to include some of the understandings we have from L2 [second language] literacy and, then, how do we get those understandings into not only literacy teachers' heads, reading teachers' heads, but also into the heads of content teachers, who on a daily basis in many of the schools in our country, are not only as the science teacher, but they're also the literacy teacher, and they're also the second language, the ESL teachers. Those are some of the things that I heard in the last couples of days. It's been a really fantastic, interesting conference.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – That's a very useful vantage point. Suzanne, as Professor and Director of Teacher Education at the University of Connecticut, you must have noticed through this day-and-a-half here that we've talked as much about teachers as we have about the students and learners here. I wondered, what's the main issue that comes for you from all of these discussions?

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – First, I'm not the Director of Teacher Education, thank God. [Laughter.] It's very hard work, but I do spend a lot of time working with my colleagues who are intimately involved in the teacher ed program at UConn. The first thing I want to say is that the hallmark of these projects is the fact that they forced collaborations between different stakeholders. That is an essential feature of doing anything that's going to help schools, and I want to say it a couple of reasons why I think that's important. Those of us who work in different places in the educational system, like in universities or research labs or in testing companies, we work in the silos of the thing that is our interest. We develop materials, or we develop teacher education programs, or we develop professional development programs, and we have specializations. The difference between the things that we do in our own tiny, little worlds and then whether or not those things can make any difference at all in schools is that teachers work at the intersection of a bunch of different things that come at them all the time in a kind of stream of activities, so they have to pay attention to policies, to practices, to mandates about kids, about subject matter, about teacher evaluation. And so their experience — if we're going to do anything that helps them, we have to test our ideas in that stream. Our ideas have to go into that messy world that teachers and school leaders and district leaders live in and inhabit, and we have to figure out how to develop things that will help in that stream, but also, things that learn from that stream. It's got to go both ways, because — and I was impressed with how thoughtful the partnerships were. I was less impressed with how much time we spent talking about what it takes to do that kind of partnership work and how practice has to speak to policy, as well as practice has to speak to research. That was one of my big takeaways.

The other big takeaway for me is that — and I'm going to take this from the medical model — we tend to pay attention to some things about the medical model. It's not always the best metaphor, but in medicine, some knowledge is produced in clinical trials or are things that are tested and retested across different — for large populations so that they can go out into the world, but a lot of knowledge in the medical world is local, situated knowledge. Doctors write cases of patients, they publish those cases of patients, and they don't publish — my brother had stomach cancer, stage IV stomach cancer, and the doctors who worked with him wrote an article about him, but they didn't write it to turn it into a treatment. They wrote the story to capture the complexity of the particular case. One thing that's really important for me about the potential of these partnerships is that they can both develop tools and ideas and programs that might travel across contexts, but we ought not then ignore the fact that we should also be developing very local knowledge, that we articulate and help an institution, a school, a set of teachers, a school district, hold on to and codify, because that situated, local knowledge is, I think, as important as any of the more generalized knowledge that can be exported.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – That's really great and a great segue. Carol Mahedy, Suzanne talked about testing our ideas in that stream. You're in that stream. [Laughter.] What came up for you as a big issue from all of this?

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – First of all, on behalf of the fish in that stream, I would just like to express my deep and profound gratitude to the six teams and to IES for what has happened in the last five years. There's been a lot of talk about how hard and long teachers work and how to help them. It's clear to me that a lot of effort and dedication has gone into that. That's the first thing I want to say.

The second thing is that I came here thinking I knew a lot about reading comprehension, and I'm leaving here wondering about that in a positive way, just in that reading comprehension is so broad and deep and multifaceted that it should come as no surprise to us how these six different efforts can expose places to keep learning and thinking about. Two ways to do that, I think, and I'm going to say the first one first because it's nearest and dearest to my heart — is the power of that partnership with teachers and researchers and practitioners and, as Catherine Snow said earlier, not just bringing researchers' questions to us, but letting us bring some questions to you. I think that's a profound beginning and that we should really, really concentrate on working together despite the obstacles that lay between us and that work.

The other piece is this — and it resonated from everyone's project — the rich language environment that's just such a vital part of reading comprehension. Whether it's kids in pre-K or whether it's struggling adolescent leaders, that ability to talk and to be able to put your ideas into a discourse that resonates with not only with your peers, but furthers your own thinking, is just something that's our responsibility to foster and to help teachers foster them.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – We talk about practice and policy, perhaps, as two separate realms, but each of you have talked about the fact that separation may be a little bit artificial, but nonetheless, I would like to now shift to the policy focus with the next three panelists here. I'm going to ask Louis Gomez first to talk a little bit about, from your vantage point, what did you see as a significant issue that people really need to pay attention to?

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – First of all, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to hang out for a day or more with such thoughtful and dedicated people. I think the opportunity that policy folks and practitioners alike and especially leaders have as a function of this work and what this work got me to think about is, as someone said yesterday, I think, text is not going anywhere. Text, I would add, is everywhere. When we talk about preparing people for the 21st century, we can't do it without a deep and abiding appreciation for the role of text in life and professionalism. When I listened to some of these projects and they highlight actually how little time people spend with text in schooling today, it's shocking. We need, as a community, to raise the prominence of text for everyone and for learners, especially.

I'm also struck by how hard it is to be a great practitioner, who uses text to help students unlock the world. Someone — I think it was Catherine Snow — made a comment about what it means to have a text that you can teach from. It's not easy. Text maybe everywhere, but text doing the duty to help you learn and for teachers to have the ability to use text as a learning object is hard work. I was struck by the difficulty of doing that well and how multifaceted doing that well is. I think that sometimes, especially for adolescents, the role of text in our lives and in their learning can fade into the background. For me, the big idea that came bubbling up in this conference is just how central text is and reading comprehension, therefore, is to learning and to the future of learners.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Thank you very much. Irwin Kirsch, you gave the opening talk here about opportunity in America. Since that time, you've been sitting in a lot of these conversations. What's occurred to you that seems to be something that really needs more attention?

Irwin Kirsch, Director of the Center for Global Assessment and Co-Director of the Opportunity Project, ETS – Thank you, T.J. I first want to applaud the teams. I came here, too, thinking that I knew something about reading. I've spent a lot of years trying to measure reading and reading comprehension, and I found the conversation over the last day-and-a-half really rich. The intelligence of the teams and the work they've put into this, I think, is critically important, but I come at this from a very different perspective. I don't work as a practitioner, and I don't get the opportunity to work with teachers or schools, so I look at it — a lot of the work I do is really from an international perspective, and so the lens that I see this whole project from is looking at the challenges that we face as a country and as people who care deeply about the reading skills and the development of reading skills in the country. While a lot of the focus and a lot of the discussion is around how do we help low-level readers and how do we improve the bottom end of the distribution, what I think people don't understand is we also have a problem at the higher end, that we don't have enough people who perform at the high end. When you look — we in the United States, tend to look at ourselves, but we don't often look at how we do relative to other countries. At least from the data that I've seen from both the adult assessments and the student assessments, is we're starting to fall behind as a country. We need to recognize just what's taking place around the world. When you look at our older populations, let's say 55 and above, we rank pretty high, close to number one, at least on the assessments that I'm aware of. When you look at our younger cohorts, we tend to rank near the bottom. What's happened is a lot of countries have understood the importance of literacy and the importance of reading that have made real advances and real investments. We need to see ourselves not just from where we are within the country, but also, how we look in an international comparison, because as we become more and more globalized and as technology takes on increasing roles, the nature of literacy is not only changing, but what we're expecting kids and adults to be able to do is changing. Responsibilities for those skills become really important.

The other takeaway for me is a point that Louis made in his remarks this morning and, I think, David Pearson yesterday alluded to in some of his comments. That is, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the mean. When you look at the results from PISA or you look at the results from other studies, we tend to see how we do on average compared to other countries or other groups. What we lose sight of is the fact of what the distribution looks like. What we really ought to be about as a country is not just thinking about moving the distribution to the right, which would mean the average score is going up, but as Louis pointed out this morning, we need to also be thinking about the distribution of bringing the tail in, because from an economic point of view, they like to look at inequality. If you look at the 90th percentile versus the 10th percentile or the 80th versus the 20th, you see that that where we do rank pretty high as a country is in terms of our inequality. The gaps between our best and our worst are pretty large, and so we really ought to be concerned about the inequality that exists within the country in terms of who's developing the kinds of skills that we are talking about over the last couple of days and who's being left behind. We also ought to be concerned about where our top is, because the data also suggests that those at the higher percentiles don't rank as high in comparison to other countries as we think they do. I think we have real issues there.

While I'm a strong believer — and this is my last takeaway — while I'm a strong believer in the role and the importance of education — and I think a lot of the conversation today and yesterday has been terrific about the role of teachers and about the role of curriculum and the kinds of changes that need to take place in order to be more efficient and more effective — I think we also have to recognize the barriers that exist outside of school. A lot of the work that we've done in the Opportunity Project at ETS, we've talked to a lot people and a lot of panels. Without mentioning any names, we talked to a secretary of education from a school that does extremely well, both looking at it relative across states, but also from an international perspective. This person's take was that they considered themselves to have failed, because they were leaving the majority of their population behind, so the 20% to 30% at the top seemed to be doing really well, but there were huge gaps. From their perspective, they weren't dealing with the kind of inequality and, at least from their perspective, that schools can play and should play at extremely important role, but there are a lot of things that are happening outside the schools, outside of the school buildings, that we need to take into account if we're really going to build successful programs, that schools have an incredibly important role to play, but they shouldn't be held accountable for everything else, that there are barriers that exist, that if we really want to build successful programs, that we need to take care of those barriers, as well. It's both what's happening inside the schools, as well as out.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Carey, you've gotten to hear what your colleagues on stage have said here. You've got an interesting perspective. You were at the District of Columbia, and now you're at the state level there [in Mississippi]. Having heard all these things over the last two days here, what occurs to you as being of foremost importance?

Carey Wright, State Superintendent, Mississippi – Thank you, and thank you for allowing me to be here today. I look at my role as a state superintendent, and I'm reflecting on what it is that I have control over versus what it is that I don't have control over in terms of policy. I started listing things that I think that I need to be refocusing on and focusing staff on. As a state, we've got the ability to approve or not approve a teacher preparation programs. I know that that's a complaint that I hear from a lot of my superintendents is that teachers are graduating from teacher prep programs, but they're not ready day one. It's like we're spending money on them in college, and then we have to spend money on them, as a state, in terms of getting their skill sets to where they need to be in order to teach the little ones that they're responsible for. That was the first thing I thought about.

Then, how do you bring something to scale in a state? I think when you're working in a district, that's one thing, but when you're looking at it across the state, particularly a state like Mississippi, it is as diverse as it can possibly be in terms of the haves and the have-nots. Then, how do you bring that to scale? Then, I think about the professional development that we're offering, because that's one thing that we've double-downed on over the past couple of years, and what does that look like? What are we doing with those teachers when we have them? We've spent a lot of time over the past couple of years ensuring that our teachers know how to teach reading. That was critical K-3. Now, I think, as I've sat here for two days, I'm thinking, "Now, then, what do I need to look at differently in terms of that professional development, specifically, honing in on reading comprehension?"

The other thing that I think about is "What are my leverage points? As a state superintendent, when I look across the state, what can I use as my biggest levers in terms of change and making change the way it should be?" The first thing I think about — we have a huge literacy initiative in Mississippi, and I think about our literacy coaches. There are a number of them around the state. They are working in our schools, and they're working at our schools with children, as well as with our teachers. What kind of professional development do they need as it relates to what I've learned over the past couples of days that I can be providing them on an ongoing basis that they, in turn, boots on the ground, side by side with my teachers, can provide that same level of training?

The other thing that has come to mind — and you think about it, but it was really very obvious in one of the presentations — was the whole idea of digital literacy. Every time we think about literacy, we always think about the book that you open and/or the Kindle that I read, which took me a long time to get there, I must say, because I'm like the book person, but I think about children, that that's just the natural way they're growing up, and so how can we capitalize on the digital literacy that children already have in their hands, be it the cell phone, or that they're having in their laps, be it an iPad, and also, the importance of making sure that when they're in school, they've got a language rich environment? I learned a lot about what that meant, not just teaching language, but what does that mean in the discourse between the teacher and the student on a daily basis? What kinds of things should be happening in the classroom? Because that, too, then, I can back-map and inform the professional development that we offer.

I'm a big believer in building people's capacity, because I believe that everybody comes to work each and every day wanting to do the very best that they can for children. I believe that in my heart of hearts. Some people come at it with a better skill set right off the bat than others, but I think that we need to focus as a state on — and we are, but I'm now refocusing my focus, if you will, on how I do build teachers' capacities, but how do I build principals' capacities? Because a lot of principals, particularly at the secondary level, particularly — I'll speak for my state — at the secondary level, are not coming from that kind of background when they landed in the principalship, but they're still responsible for that, because they in turn are going to impact those secondary teachers. That was something that really came up over the past couples of days is — and I put this quote down because I thought it was a perfect one — "getting our secondary teachers to see the obligation and opportunity to teach reading across the content areas." I wrote that down, and I'm going to use that again, because I think that secondary folks typically come from the content perspective — "I'm a math teacher. I'm a social studies teacher." I think if we can get to see the importance, if they could embed part of that time into their content, of teaching those little ones to read that have arrived on their doorstep still lacking those skills.

We produce a lot of guidance documents and lot of resources. We're starting to increase that. These two days have definitely informed our work there. I've already been on the phone with my chief academic officer, telling her, "Brace yourself. We're coming back with lots of good ideas over the past couples of days which I think are important." For me, it's also the importance of getting teachers and principals and parents and everyone that comes into contact with children to really believe in their heart of hearts in the unlimited capabilities of children. I am a firm believer that children can and will accomplish what you tell them they can and will accomplish it with the right amount of support and the right resources. That's something that's very important in a state such as mine, where a lot of folks just don't see the value in education because that was just the way they were brought up. It's not a fault of theirs. That's just a part of the culture. What we've got to do is lift those expectations, because I think we're leaving a lot of children behind by not expecting the very best out of them.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Thank you very much for that. That concludes the first question here. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn to questions that had been offered through sli.do and remind those of you in the room, as well as those of you watching on the webcast, that you can do that. I also want to tell Suzanne that there's an item here that says "applause for Suzanne bringing up cases" that's trending on sli.do right now, so you can feel good about that. [Laughter.]

One of the questions here relates to something that you just talked about, Carey, about this obligation and opportunity to teach reading across all of the subject areas here. Someone asked — and a number of other people have gone thumbs up on it here — "Has reading for understanding changed in the 21st century, and how does that impact practices and policies?" I'll let anyone here start us off on that discussion, because I think it's a pretty rich question for us to investigate.

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – Yes. [Laughter.] The people who know the most particular way to answer this question are the people who are working in these projects, so do you want to take a —

James Pupura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – No, go ahead.

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – no, no, no [motions to Carol] — stab at it?

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – Yes and no, I think. I often think about what's changed most dramatically for students is that they have to be literate to be social, and that didn't exist when most of the people in this room were growing up. While reading comprehension was just as vitally important, there were still jobs/careers that you could pursue without necessarily being adept at that. There were also all kinds of social interaction that you could be involved with. Perhaps, what changed — and this is just a personal and local story, but one day, I was asked to meet with a 15-year-old girl, who had had very little schooling in her life, although she'd lived in the United States and came to our district, and basically couldn't read or write. They asked if I could just have conversation with her. As we were talking, I asked her, "Can you text?" She hung her head, and she said, "No, I just write back LOL or OMG, and I hope that I'm right." That moment really just shifted my perspective. It doesn't just matter for doing school. In this day and age, it matters. I think that's a simple answer to the question, but it's a complex problem.

James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – I don't know whether reading pedagogy has changed, but I think that the competencies that we need in terms of literacies have really changed. In other words, in order to be successful in the world right now, it's a different game from when I was growing up, of course. We got to go onto the Internet. We have to solve problems with people in groups around the world. We have to have these digital literacies. We need to access large amounts of information, summarize them in our heads, make some kind of mental representation, synthesize this information, and then we need to use the information to do other things with it. The idea of the literacies that we need in order to be successful in the world right now are completely different and much more complex. That has changed completely. It's whether the pedagogy has kept pace with those, with the understanding that it is critical that we be able to do these types of high-level skills, that, I don't know. I think in the assessments, though — that's my area — I think the GESA project is a perfect example of trying to model those types of capacities in the assessment context, where you actually — you have a problem to solve. You're given information that you need to summarize and synthesize. You need to interact with that information in certain ways. You might even have — as we do when we're solving problems, we learn, and guess what? We can do this in the context of a test. We learn. We discuss with other people, we try to figure it out, and then we display more understandings in this kind of assessment. The GESA project, I thought, for me, was just really amazing in terms of how to model these high-level skills and also some of the competencies that are needed for these high-level skills in the assessment. I think that has changed. We're really moving forward with that. I don't know about the regular — I'm not as familiar in the actual pedagogies themselves, but these two pieces, I'm pretty sure about.

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Schools, Indiana – I would say, from a practitioner's perspective and one who works very closely with local business and industry, when we think about career readiness, many of the expectations in the past for college readiness are now the minimum expectations for career readiness. It's important to think about the capacity and skill set needed for those who are going into a workplace that is very different form the past, understanding, as you mentioned before, the ability to problem-solve and analyze and work collaboratively. I think that reading for understanding has definitely shifted, and it's important for us to ensure that our students are prepared if we are to move forward appropriately.

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – To answer your question, I would probably say yes and (inaudible) from this example, yes, and accelerating. I'll give two examples. One of my colleagues, Kim Gomez, in one of her classes, she asked undergraduates to go and interview their parents or some other significant person about the role of literacy in their work. A thing to know about UCLA is it's a very diverse place. We have very high-income people and first-generation college goers in large numbers. When you look at the responses to this assignment, no matter where you look in the spectrum of adults, the role that language and literacy plays in work that you wouldn't even think it ever had a role is huge. The negotiations that especially English language learners have to do to manage the literacy in everyday work is extraordinary.

Another example is, if you have a moment, take a look at another colleague's book, Mike Rose, about his book he authored, now several years ago, called The Mind at Work. Taking a look at his case examples of the cognition in everyday work is a mind-blowing experience. My answer to you is "yes, and accelerating."

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – That is a really good point. Irwin, I'm looking to you because I know a lot of the work the Opportunity Project has done has looked at the gap in terms of what is going to be required for jobs.

Irwin Kirsch, Director of the Center for Global Assessment and Co-Director of the Opportunity Project, ETS – I think there are two dimensions that people have talked about. One is the nature, the fact that reading and literacy are dynamic constructs, and so then the demands, on the demand side, we have much higher expectations of people both for what they need to be able to do for good-paying jobs, but also, for what they have to do in their everyday lives. We've heard over the last couples of days just about the richness of the construct and how the construct has also changed. We heard from John Sabatini and Susan Goldman about just how the richness of the construct — and when you look at what's being measured now and what we expect people to do on these large-scale assessments, they've moved to computers, and all the computer assessments allow for the refinements we see in the construct to be measured in a much richer way. One of the ways in which the construct has shifted through these computer-based assessments is we can now look at being able to deal with multiple texts in a dynamic way and asking kids and adults to be able to interact with those texts in a much richer way. Where in traditional reading assessments were where you had a static text where you knew what to read and the order in which to read, this is now left wide open, because if you take the scenario-based approached where you give them the purpose up front and then you give them access to multiple texts, they basically are choosing and creating the order in which they interact with those texts. The coherence is really built around that. The demands of what we're asking kids to be able to do and adults to be able to do, I think, reflects the richness of the construct and how the construct has changed, which also has become more social. Yes, I think the construct is always changing, and our ability to understand it is catching up with all of that. I think the framework that Susan laid out yesterday, I found really compelling in a rich way, to begin to understand what we need to expect kids to be able to do and what they need to understand. I would say yes on both sides, that the construct if evolving, the access to information is evolving along with that, and what we expect people to be able to do is also changing. The demand side is also going up. I think that's the way society is going to continue to evolve.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Jim, you wanted to make an additional comment?

James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – Yeah. I'd like to give people a little bit of perspective. On an international level, all of the things that I've just described — we need to hunt for information; we need to figure out if it's accurate or not; we need to summarize it, synthesize it; we need to use the information, understand and use it for different things — in most places around the world, they're doing this in a foreign language, a different language than their own. This is a global skill. I was just in Costa Rica working with the Minister of Education on their reform. I had a high-level meeting with people. I thought the whole thing was going to be in English. Everybody I'd spoken to before then was in English. The documents they sent were in English. Guess what? One person didn't speak English, so that thing moved over to Spanish in half a second. I had to do that whole thing in Spanish. That was a really important eye opener that our literacies are L1 based. We need to really acknowledge and love and adore the people who are able actually to speak a second language. They provide a global resource for us in order for us to be able to do these competencies, not only in our own language, but in other languages. In the United States, unfortunately, we've gotten rid of a lot of the foreign language requirements, and in many parts of the country, speaking a second language is bad, but this is not good policy on a global level. I just had to put that in there.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – There's a study being reported this week that due to the population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, that French may end up being the number one language in the world. The study's methodology may be suspect there, but it raises this point here that we make certain assumptions about where we are in terms of languages that are not really borne out once one looks at the other part of the world.

I wanted to go to the top question here. I wanted to ask you if you would start with this one, Carey. We've gotten a lot of people who have signed onto this question. What policies will ensure that more teachers have expert knowledge of reading and language development, but also, attract and retain them in high-need schools? I'm starting with you because something you said before about taking this back out to your teachers there seems to relate to this question.

Carey Wright, State Superintendent, Mississippi – I think there are two parts for me. One is definitely looking at our teacher prep programs to ensure that they are providing our teachers the skills and knowledge that they need in order to be ready day one to teach children, particularly, in the area of reading. That, to me, is a very powerful piece. Obviously, they come to us for the approval, but I think what's causing me to think a little bit further about this is "How much are we drilling down into what they're actually bringing us to look at?" In other words, is it just a syllabus that they want us to — and say, "Yeah, sure. Trust us. We're going to make sure that this happens," and so I'm thinking we need to drill down a little bit further in the documents that we're asking our universities to produce to us to ensure that the content that's in these courses that teachers have confidence in.

The whole idea of retention is really alive and well. For me, if teachers feel that they're supported and they feel that they have the resources that they need and, particularly, if they feel that they've got the leadership in the school that is going to support them in their work, I think you'll find, and I think the literature will support, that teachers have a tendency to want to stay, but the moment that they don't feel supported, the moment that they don't feel that they've got their resources, and the moment that they feel that they've got a disengaged leader, they're going to start looking around someplace else.

In a state like mine, where you've got very, very rural areas, trying to find teachers to come and stay in those areas becomes very difficult. It makes me want to step back and say, "What have we done in those areas particularly to differentiate our work?" Because right now, we've been going at it with everything for everybody because we saw it was such a need, but now I feel like we're in a place where we can step back and think, "What is a differentiated model that I can put in place in Mississippi that might put more support for teachers, more professional development for teachers, more resources for teachers in those areas that we're having the most difficulty getting them to stay, and what am I doing to help the leaders of those schools?"

I was lucky. I've been in public education all my life, but I had mentors that brought me up in the curriculum and instruction world. That was just — and I'm so blessed with that, because that's my focus. That's been my focus all my life, but not all of my colleagues, even when I was a principal, were that way. They got to be a principal because they were the next in line or whatever the case might be. It's through no fault of their own that you've got leaders that really don't have these skills, but it's not something that they can't learn. I think for me, it's stepping back and looking at how can we differentiate what we need to be providing across our state and, then, what is that going to look like and what is that going to cost and how are we going to get it accomplished.

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – Just to reaffirm everything that was just said, I think it's really important to understand that if you want to build strong human capital in this system, you have to understand that it's not just about the human capital, that the system and all sorts of policies and practices influence how teachers experience their work and their lives. We have to think about strengthening teacher preparation. There's a great deal of experimentation going on in teacher prep, and we're learning a lot about higher quality teacher preparation. We have to get clear on what beginning teachers need to know versus what we — building a trajectory for teachers to learn over the course of their lifetimes, because it's a lifelong project of learning how to do this work well. That means that we have to think about building good systems of teacher support, professional development that's intentional, that accumulates, that isn't just the carnival that currently exists where it's like you catch as catch can, but nothing builds on anything else. These things about teacher development are, of course, central. Teacher evaluation policies send completely different messages and are not aligned with what's going on in teacher prep or in professional development, but teacher evaluation systems, educator evaluation systems, have in them the mandate for teachers to learn things, so it would make sense to line those policies up with teacher preparation and with professional development and human capacity building, but the tools teachers are given to do their work also affect whether or not they can do their work well. Many, many science teachers don't have curricula. They don't have them. This is just appalling, especially for new teachers. New teachers should not be in the business of finding the materials they are going to use, but the tools they use affect what they're able to do.

The environment of a school affects what a teacher's able to do, not just whether they stay, but whether they learn. The way that we think about how teachers are assigned to their classes and the mix of students in their classes affects what a teacher can learn. A teacher cannot learn to work with English language learners, if a teacher doesn't work with English language learners. It's really simple, but this idea that we're going to fix the human capital problem by targeting teacher prep or targeting PD just doesn't acknowledge the systemic nature and this — it's bad. It's not a particularly powerful way to talk about it, but the fact that all these things in the lives of schools work together — and we can't just think that we're going to pull one out and fix the problem.

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – I would just like to piggyback on that by saying I think the people who have some influence, and one way to change things for us, are the people in this room and the project that we've completed, if you could see the passion in the teachers that were talking about Project Ready, the way that it's changed my professional development. The teachers in my district just talk about the chance of not only being asked, but being listened to, and then seeing their input in the next reiteration of a unit, those are very powerful opportunities for professional development and growing human capacity that don't depend on places outside of this room or outside of our lotus of people. That's my plea.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – There's a big difference between something being forced upon a teacher and something being co-created and just, say, being asked and listened to by everybody. Louis, did you want to —

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – No.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I want to make sure — we're out of time here — that I ask this question now, because I don't want this session to end on this particular question, but it is high up here. It's been asked, "What do you see as the number one barrier for changing policy?" I'm going to find a way with other questions here to not be focusing on what the obstruction might be, but we've alluded to some of that, Suzanne talking about the fact that we may not see it as a system; it may be one of those things, but I'm going to go through the entire group here, if I may, and ask you, what do you think — given the changes in policy that have been suggested already here, what's going to get in the way? We've heard different things over the course of the day. We've heard the amount of time. We've heard resources. We've heard head space, mental models, a lot of other things that are there, but what stands out as number one for you? Thank you.

Carey Wright, State Superintendent, Mississippi – I don't know that I'd say — it's not number one, but when you say, "What are some of the barriers," I'm going to start out with politics, because I think that that is a real factor in trying to get anything done, whether it's politics at the college level or politics in the legislature, which I deal with a lot, or politics whether you're dealing with school boards, but sometimes it's people having the political will to do something. Sometimes it's people in politics not seeing the need for change.

It's interesting. I was in a meeting this past year, and we were talking about access and equity around dual credit/dual enrollment to our community colleges. We've got the range in fees for a course ranging, at some community colleges, at $50 and some at $450. If I'm a student who has a great deal of poverty, I better hope that I'm at one that's nearest the $50 versus the $450. We met with a group, with all the community college presidents, and we said, basically, "What's it going to take to level the playing field so that children, no matter where they live, can have equal access to dual credit/dual enrollment?" Interestingly enough, the first hand that went up said, "This is going to cost me money." That was the first comment. "This is going to cost me money." I am typically not a very shy person, but I had to literally, literally bite my tongue, because in my mind was going the question "We're talking about a business model versus talking about educating children?" The second hand that went up, thank goodness, was another president that said, "I'm good with that, because I'm going to get it on the backend, because my kids are going to stay, and they're going to graduate and get out of my two-year system."

For me, I think we've really got to look at politics and think about, when you enter into that arena, who are your influencers? Who do you need to build those relationships with, if it's going to mean that in order to get the kind of policies that we need in place? But I do think politics plays a huge role in the establishment of policy.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Great start for us. Who'd like to go next? Suzanne?

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – What she said. [Laughter.] I once studied math reform in California. People talked about it as the "math wars." I was trying to understand the relationship between policy and practice. This issue of the fact that our educational system is a free-for-all space for the political will of the country and local communities makes it very difficult for the steady work that's necessary to make progress on social problems. We know social problem solving requires trust. It requires long-term — it requires multiple stakeholders. It requires civil engagement and mutual respect for difference and deliberative democracy that allows for there to be lots of different voices and perspectives, but for it not to turn political, but instead to be focused on how to solve the problems. I'm not sure that we have figured out in the policy — policy is a blunt instrument. It cannot do the kind of microwork that these collaboratives do, but it can do a lot of harm. I'm not sure that we've figured out how to use policy yet to not micromanage, but instead to create the space where people can work on social problem solving, develop trust, and part of that be held publically and professionally accountable so that our trust is warranted. I think that is the thing that I worry about the most.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Someone was saying to me in terms of looking at the themes that bubbled up here that when we look at policy, sometimes policies can get ahead or fall behind where practice is in this year. That's an additional problem, but going back to this issue of what's the main barrier, Jim, do you want to offer your take?

James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – Yeah. I'm not going to talk about policy because it's just too damn depressing. [Laughter.] I have no control over it, and so really, I could go back to the 60's, but I'm not. For me, a really large barrier is the individual. I have met teachers around the world, at Columbia and everywhere, that really understand that there's a need to change. Sometimes they have access to information, sometimes they have opportunity to information and to learn and to change, and often, I've seen them in conditions that are really not favorable, and they will change, period. They're going to learn more, and they're going to do it. It comes from a deep, deep engagement in motivation and desire to be the best teacher in the world, and they want to do something that really makes sense to them.

On the other hand, the challenge is when the teacher really doesn't want to change, doesn't care, really. They've kind of burnt out. The system hasn't treated them well all the time, and they don't think they need to learn anything new. They don't see the need for their students to — their idea is not in their student — their heart is not in their students' wellbeing; it's in their own wellbeing. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of teachers who have this attitude. Even when they have the opportunity to learn and they have access to information, they reject it. It's really deeply, how do I get — the challenge, for me, is how do I get all of these teachers wanting to be the best teacher and wanting to have access to information and actually getting it and trying to move ahead? It's a very individual thing.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Who else would like to answer this question? Yes, Irwin?

Irwin Kirsch, Director of the Center for Global Assessment and Co-Director of the Opportunity Project, ETS – I would agree with James on one level, but on another level, I don't think we can solve the problem one person at a time. For me, I think a big barrier is that we're always looking for a simple solution to very complex problems. We look for a main effect in a world of complex interactions. I think part of the barrier is we need to come to understand the size and the scope of the problem and the challenges that we face, and we can't think we're going to solve the problem in five years. We have to look at this as a long, sustainable investment that we need to make. It took us a long time to get to where we are, and I think it will take at least a generation or two of sustained effort using models that were talked about in the last couple of days, where we're looking at continuous improvement, because I think there's a lot of stake, and I think this country is at a crossroads. I would try to convince us to move away from a simple solution to really complex problems and to convince people that this has to be a coordinated, long-term investment, and we need to monitor it carefully over at least a generation.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Louis, you wanted to add on to that?

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – I'll locate my barrier, if you will, in between Jim (inaudible). I think our biggest barrier is that we are not cultural learners. I mean all of us. We often have too much confidence in underspecified solutions. We often, as organizations, lack the expertise to really implement with integrity the things that we want to try to do. We don't have enough of a commitment to genuine documentation. We don't provide enough space to the learners and to share our learning with one another. I think that we need not just an individual commitment to learning. We need organizational commitments to learning. Every school and every community that surrounds every school should be a learning culture focused on the needs of individuals in schools. I agree, that problem, if we take it on, is one that is at least a generation or more to have made meaningful progress. For some reason, I think we've created a current culture where we are purveyors of education without being devoted to learning.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – One of our colleagues said earlier that we have to have the room to fail, so it's going to be a learning culture. That's part of being a learning culture is that you can try things and they're not all going to work.

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – If you ask yourself the question, all of us, "Where do you learn the most, if it all works out the way you planned for it to work out versus when things break," so you have to have to have that space.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Barbara, from your perspective of being a superintendent, what's the main barrier?

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Schools, Indiana – I think there are many, but one that I think stands out for me that hasn't been mentioned previously is the manner in which assessments are used at the state level and what we know really makes a difference in terms of student learning. If we're able to find a way — and this is one of the headlines that came up previously — how do we inform the policymakers of the best use of assessments so that there is support for that rather than simply as an accountability tool, as a tool for punishment, as a tool for compensation? If we're going to drive improvement nationally, we have to change the way assessments are viewed. I don't know the right mechanism for informing policymakers so that they're more supportive, but without this, we're going to have — and we heard it across many of the projects — schools focusing on test prep rather than using assessments appropriately as a powerful tool to change instructional practice and what students are learning.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I'm going to come back to this point here, a couple of points that you've raised here, because it's related to another question, but before we do that, Carol, I wanted to hear from you because you're at that interface with the students. When someone asks this question of "What's the main barrier here," policy may seem at times abstract, because you're in the midst of practice every day.

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – It's interesting, because I was quiet because I thought I don't have anything to do with policy, but yet, what teachers do every day, and in some ways, every minute of every day is dictated by policy and often sort of a kaleidoscope, changing every day. I think that's why some of the projects probably faced some barriers in terms of implementation, because how does a teacher in a classroom with five hours a day that he or she might have with their student decide which edict, because sometimes that's just what it is, to follow and what to get rid of. It's shifting sands. I think that teachers, and particularly, students are really caught in that.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – That brings me, when you talk about policy and edicts and someone said that administrative comes in and are you following the script or you're not following the script there, and so it comes down to those issues there, but one of the questions here was "How do we ensure policymakers know the major findings from reading for understanding from RFU?" Something that occurred to me — and maybe it's because I come to this as someone who's more about adult learning — do people at high level, do they take reading for granted in a way that talking to them about decoding or about fluency, that there's a reason that, everybody reads, don't they?" Is that part of the issue here in this question of how we would ensure the policymakers know these major findings, that they simply are looking at it as something that is a given?

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – I think they think they know. [Laughter.] This isn't my original line, but someone said it in one of his sessions earlier, that they're reacting to the Tweet or the sound bite, and so they go into the classroom looking for that. Teachers are very compromised by that evaluation system that's dependent on the results of assessment. They have an evaluator that they want to please, and yet at some level, maybe they don't know everything that we've been exposed to in the last two days, but they understand the gravity of the task sometimes more than the people that are evaluating them.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I thought this was a really interesting question in part because I'm so impressed by not only the abundance of the material, the results from the work of NCER and IES and sponsorship of others like CCSSO here, but also the fact that it's available here. If there were one or two things that you could do to make this more available to policymakers, what would you do? What would you suggest, anyone? Carey?

Carey Wright, State Superintendent, Mississippi – It's certainly something that as a state superintendent, I intend to take back and share not only with my board, who was kind enough to even move our board meeting date so I could be here, but also to share it with the superintendents and the principals and the teachers with whom we come into contact. I think there are folks that read up on this all the time, but I think there's also people in certain positions that "I went to school. I learned to read. Eventually, everybody's going to learn to read," but I think that looking at the environment in which some of our children are in right now, it's a lot different than it was even ten years ago, much less when people that were older went to school a long time ago. For me, it's a dissemination factor and lifting that up in a way that I can, but then following it through with actions at a state level so that we're putting some of this into practice.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I see some heads nodding. Louis?

Louis Gomez, Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies – One of the things that I've been most impressed with this day-and-a-half is the level of collaboration, and particularly, the level of commitment to the research that all the RFU team members had, but in particular, the people who work in schools every day, their level of commitment. What I think policymakers, from a broad spectrum, might appreciate is understanding the knowledge-building effort that people have gone through, but through the eyes of people who've worked in schools a good part of their time rather than just simply having reports or, as marvelous as my research colleagues are, having them tell the story. Having this story being told through the eyes of people who work in schools every day and how they were a critical part of value knowledge building I think will be really, really important for the policymaking community to understand at levels of making administrative rules on the one hand, trying to figure out how you fund the next thing, what state funding formulas should look like, whose knowledge should be privileged. Understanding the value of something like RFU, but through the eyes of people who live in schools would be really, really important.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – I'm going to take the opportunity to build off of what you just said there, about understanding it and telling the story here, to raise this question to you. Someone raised, and people have checked it off as something they want asked, if it's telling a story, who can serve as the change leader for reading comprehension moving forward? Who will lead and bring people together around key challenges? What are your thoughts around that, Suzanne?

Suzanne Wilson, Professor of Teacher Education, University of Connecticut – I think the point is that it's collected some people and that — I was thinking about the policy — I think this is related to your policymaker question — partly, we need to think about what kinds of information policymakers need, but policymakers act in lots of different parts of the system. One kind of policymaker might need one kind of information, and another might need much more of a microscopic kind of approach to information.

I'm not sure, but in the end, I think what we need to do is — a big theme over the conference was understanding that it is irresponsible to hand something to somebody and say, "Do this," that teachers and their leaders and the parents and the kids and the people who are working in teacher ed programs and the people who are in PD programs need to understand the thinking that went into the tools that are being handed to people, because the tool never — the work is professional work, and that means that I have to make judgments. They're critical judgments, and sometimes I need to adapt things.

A doctor knows to give you a particular antibiotic, if you have a kind of infection. A doctor also knows that you are different than the mean. The studies are about the mean, but you are not the mean. You are a patient, and your body processes the antibiotics in certain kinds of ways. If you're getting an antibiotic, a good, critical doctor is doing hearing tests, if that's related, is doing blood work every day to see how your body is processing stuff so that it can be adapted.

It's no different in the educational system in terms of the materials the teachers and the ideas the teachers are given. They have to know enough to be able to make professional decisions. They have to understand. I think the way we're going to make change is that teachers can explain themselves, leaders can explain themselves, parents can explain what the teachers and leaders are doing in the schools, students feel like they have something — this is what we see in the stories where big change happens. It's everybody learns so that everybody can participate in the critical debate, that this isn't about getting everybody to do this thing. It's about getting everybody to understand, from their particular part in the system, what their responsibility is as an actor, and that actor is both as a teacher or a leader, but also as an advocate, as somebody who goes and talks to a state school board or who sits down with a parent and listens to why the thing that's going on isn't working for the parent and changes and adapts. I think it's everybody, and I think the theme of the meeting about the critical importance of people understanding, it's not just reading for understanding, right? It's people understanding. It's not just that I have understanding, it's that that understanding empowers me to act in collaboration with other people in critical ways.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – You've made the point a couple of times, as have others, about the complexity of this and the systemic nature of this. It reminds me of Ron Heifetz' distinction between something that's a technical problem and something that's an adaptive problem. The adaptive problems are more difficult to solve, because you've got to get at value; you've got to get at culture there. Are there other thoughts about who perhaps brings that coalition together as change leader? Who can be an inciter of that?

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Schools, Indiana – I would say I don't know necessarily who should lead it, but I've seen a recent policy change that took place in Indiana. It was a collective effort, a mass of support for a particular change to take place. I've never seen anything move as quickly through the legislature or at the governor's level. There was an articulation and a strong voice shared from the university level, from the school district level, from teachers themselves, from parents. There was outrage, and there was a strong rationale as to why that took place, so I think it's organizing so that there is a common agenda, a common set of talking points that's clearly articulated so the message was received quickly and there was fast action.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – We've got a little over three minutes left. I asked you at the beginning if you would offer your ideas about what the main takeaway is here. I'm going to ask you one more time, if there's one thing that you would like people, whether they're on the webcast or they are in the room here, to take away from this here, what would it be? What's one thing that you think is really important for us to take away so that we do move towards action? Yes?

Carol Mahedy, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional District, Massachusetts – The power of partnerships.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – The power of partnerships. Very good.

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Schools, Indiana - I would say the power of trust.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – he power of trust, and that came up a lot of times in the various reactions to the sessions that we had here, the importance of trust. In fact, one of the latest questions here was that individual teachers are more motivated to put forth the effort required for significant change when they feel supported and trusted. What else? One takeaway. Yes, Jim?

James Purpura, Associate Professor of Language and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University – I think the value of research when research is located in practice and how that can create communities and collaborations and everybody can be a participant to change, to a knowledge-base-centered change.

T.J. Elliot, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of ETS – Very good. Anyone else? [Silence.] I think that's a good place for us to bring this to a closing. First, would you please join me in thanking all of our panelists? [Applause.] Before I turn to our speaker who's going to close us out today, I want to also take this opportunity to thank all of those who cosponsored, especially the Chief Council of State School Officers here in terms of doing this, and all of you who have attended and listened, because as has been said, it probably is a matter of all of us taking this back and being part of this coalition. To close today, I want to invite Thomas Brock, who is the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Research, to come up and say a few words. [Applause.]

Thomas Brock, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Research – I just want to really begin by thanking all of you for what has been a tremendously rich discussion. I have to say, I've just been so impressed by all the progress on the research and also the progress in really culling from some very complex studies the key lessons. I was advised before I gave my opening remarks yesterday to make clear that you're really only presenting a fraction, a small piece, of what you've learned from all of these projects and, yet, how much we have learned and benefitted from these lessons.

I also was really impressed over the course of the two days by the attention to implementation issues. For that, I particularly want to thank all of the policymakers and practitioners who came and stayed with us throughout these sessions to help keep the conversation real and rooted in the real concerns of schools and classrooms.

Then, finally, I just want to comment on the commitment that I heard and the momentum for moving forward, to not giving up on these issues. Even if we have not necessarily gotten the rocket ship all the way to the moon or to the stars, as was suggested, we have made tremendous progress, and I sensed from everyone in the room a real commitment to continuing forward with this agenda.

On that note, I just wanted to close by pointing out that the U.S. Department of Education does provide some funding opportunities that can continue to support work in this field. First of all, for any of you who want to continue forward with addressing some of the critical research questions that have been discussed over these last couple of days, the Institute of Education Sciences, or IES, I think as you all know, is really the primary source for research funding. You can go on our website now at ies.ed.gov/funding to see a complete roster of all of the opportunities that are currently available. I'll highlight just a couple of these that I think are probably most salient to this audience.

First off, both the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research have an education research grants program or a special education research grants program that supports work in the reading-and-writing topic area. We support a wide variety of research goals. People often think about IES as being primarily interested in randomized controlled trials, and indeed, we are. We do provide support for efficacy and effectiveness studies of that type, but there are a range of other studies we support as well, from basic exploration to dig more deeply into understanding particular problems or issues and ways we might begin intervening to development and innovation work to support the creation of new intervention strategies and the pilot testing of those strategies to measurement studies. GESA, of course, that we heard about at this conference is a prime example, but we're always interested in new approaches to thinking about how to develop, refine, and validate new measures.

In addition to the education research grants and special education research grants, we have our researcher-practitioner partnership program. Liz Albro mentioned this a little bit earlier on the panel. These funds are really intended as seed money to help researchers and practitioners work together on a problem or issue that is of primary interest and concern to the education agency. We think about these dollars as really helping to get a research agenda started. Whereas our education research grants can be quite large, potentially going up to $3.8 million, the researcher-practitioner partnership grants are smaller, up to $400,000 over two years, as I say, to really get started on a particular research agenda.

The application deadline for grants in all of these areas I've talked about is August 4th. Even though you've missed the deadline for the letter of intent, there's still plenty of time to get in an application. We do not penalize you if, in fact, you missed that letter-of-intent deadline, which was earlier this month.

If any of you in the room are more coming from the standpoint of needing programmatic funding, one of our other offices within the Department of Education, the Office of Innovation and Improvement, or OII, provides very important funding through the Investing and Innovation Program, i3, which I think might be very relevant, particularly for those of you who have been listening to some of these interventions discussed over the past couple of days and may be thinking, "You know, I think our school district or our state would be ready to pick up this particular strategy and see if we can make it work in our community, in our state." The purpose of the i3 program, specifically, is to expand implementation of innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement. Indeed, we've seen some fantastic examples of that over the last couple of days. The i3 grants do also have a research requirement built into them, but the funding is primarily intended for programmatic purposes. This year, the Office of Innovation and Improvement is requesting applications for two types of grants, validation grants up to $12 million that's available in funding and then scale-up grants for up to $20 million in funding. Their deadline is July 15th. If any of you are pursuing potential funding opportunities, I would encourage you to look at their website, which is innovation.ed.gov.

The very final thing I wanted to say, just to close out my remarks, is that IES is open to hearing from all of you. As you've listened to the presentations these last couple of days, if you have ideas about other kinds of research funding that may be needed, that you don't see supported by our current programs, this is something we want to hear about. Also, if you have ideas about how IES can improve as a research funding agency, perhaps through your own interactions with us over the years, which I hope have been positive, but if you have some ideas or suggestions of ways we can do our work better and support you better, we want to hear that as well. You can send those ideas to me, personally, at my email address, which is thomas.brock@ed.gov, again, thomas.brock@ed.gov.

Again, I just want to thank all of you for being with us these past couple of days, for all the preparation and planning, for some fabulous presentations and discussions, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue. Thank you. [Applause.]

Carey Wright, State Superintendent, Mississippi – On behalf of CCSSO and all of the State Chiefs, I want to thank our panel. I want to thank our moderator, T.J. Elliot, and ETS for co-hosting this event along with CCSSO, and I want to thank all the state and district leaders who took the time. This is a very busy time of the year. I appreciate that very much, and I appreciate the fact that you gave two days of your time to come here. I think what we've learned under the Five-Year Reading for Understanding Research Initiative is powerful, and it gives us a chance to start digging into ways to bring this to scale, and also in order just to basically look at helping all of our children learn to read and comprehend.

I thank all of our co-sponsors for making this event possible to bring all of our state and district leaders here. That's not a small task. I thank IES, obviously, for funding the research around important problems of practice. I think that's a key piece that keeps us moving forward in education. As a State Chief, I can certainly tell you that I learned a tremendous amount from being here for two days. I've taken lots of notes. My first agenda when I get back is to meet with my leadership team. I've already sent that message so we can share and then think about what comes next in Mississippi based on what I've learned here. Also, just a reminder that the event webpage found at the "for more information" link on your screens has all the slide decks, because people have been asking about that, all the presentations that were made, and the video of this webcast will be up within a few weeks after it goes through accessibility augmentation.

I know each of you share a really deep commitment around America's children. Public education is very, very important and more important now, I think, than ever before for all of our kids. I think that we need to make sure that we're doing everything that we can do to ensure that they've got a bright future. I can tell you that by working together, we talk about the power of partnerships, but by working together, we can ensure that our students can read and can comprehend what they're reading, because that is going to put them in that critical motion to become successful adults. Once again, thank you so much for your attendance, and safe travels to everybody. [Applause.]

On-screen: [National Symposium on Reading for Understanding.]

On-screen: [ETS. CCSSO. Council of Chief State School Officers.]

End of Video: National Symposium on Reading for Understanding

Video Duration: 1:28:24