The TSLP is designed to guide systemic efforts to improve literacy instruction and academic outcomes for students. When temporary sources of funding are used to support new practices, such as professional development or coaching, leaders need to consider how practices can continue to be supported when temporary funding ends. Those who are able to sustain a literacy initiative will see it not as a funding stream, but as a different way of thinking about teaching and learning (Cole & McCann, 2009, p. 4). When improvement initiatives are supported by temporary funding, there is a danger of thinking of the new practices that originate with those funds as being temporary as well.
A useful way to think about sustainability is as the product of embracing new and improved ways of doing the work of education. If attitudes and thinking and practices change as you and your staff operate with temporary funds, and if you find your results improve, then when those temporary funds disappear, your staff will be inclined to maintain the changed attitudes and thinking and practice. The problem becomes, then, how to maintain and continue funding what you are doing because you know it works. It is experiencing this type of evolution that allows schools to avoid the common pitfall of discontinuing efforts once the money is gone.
The Texas Education Agency provides guidance for coordinating efforts across various funding sources such as Title I, Title III, and special education Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS). You can access federal and state guidance via the following links:
Your campus-based leadership team may want to talk to district leaders about options for pooling resources. You might also promote additional partnerships with business and community leaders. Campuses can work with other schools as well. Funding for sustainability is very likely an issue that will be best handled by schools in coordination and collaboration with district leaders. Reaching out to business and community leaders could happen at the neighborhood level by one individual campus, but it also should be considered at a district level. The alignment and coordination of what happens at a school level with efforts at the district level will be key to getting the most out of the funding sources currently available and could also lead to accessing more funding for the future.
The TSLP is a state document designed to guide efforts to improve literacy instruction. If there are existing or potential sources of funding that don’t at first seem very tied to literacy efforts, it might be possible to create or identify a connection that allows use of those funds to work both for their original purpose and also for literacy goals and activities. Regardless of the funding source(s), you will want to coordinate the various initiatives at your school and communicate common or overlapping goals.
In the end, you and your staff will work to leverage temporary funds to make lasting positive change. For example, the Effective Instructional Framework module examines the response to intervention approach and the three-tiered model of instruction. Your aim is to transform the culture of your school so that this process becomes the usual way you do business rather than something done in association with a particular program or grant.
In part at least, sustainability of effective new practices is about making hard choices and prioritizing. Part of the way to free up funds for things you know are worth sustaining is by deciding to stop doing things that are less important to sustain, even if your school is used to doing them, has always done them, or likes doing them. Using the six-step “TSLP Implementation Process: Working on an Action Step” (illustrated in the Implementation module) and regularly reviewing your data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction (in the Leadership module) will help lead to using data to evaluate the success of various initiatives and practices. This evaluation may in turn lead you and your team to question some of the common—and perhaps popular—ways of doing things at your school. Such changes can be difficult, but taking the time to look into the effectiveness of even long-held practices can inform the tough decisions you and your team need to make regarding the use of resources and time for what really makes an impact on student literacy outcomes.
Sustainability of evidence-based reading programs and other innovations does not happen by accident. It is the result of several years of implementing effective reading practices with competence and good outcomes for students and working hard to create the organizational and system supports to sustain it and scale it up to benefit students district-wide—or even statewide (Fixsen & Paine, 2009, p. 14),
You and your leadership team should think in terms of aligning initiatives rather than simply moving on to the next new initiative. You should also evaluate current practices that may need to be changed or eliminated as you make hard choices and prioritize.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in implementing systems to build and maintain capacity to provide effective literacy instruction, you may want to consider the following next steps:
- Review the Level D Reflective Sustainability Indicators, which are in all components except Sustainability, for the Action Step (s) that your school has prioritized in your implementation plan.
- Evaluate current literacy practices and identify practices that are effective.
- Brainstorm ways to support effective practices after temporary funds cease.
- Brainstorm practices or procedures you can stop doing or reduce.
- Review, revise, and establish a system for assessing staff development needs and differentiating available support.
- Create timelines and procedures for evaluating the impact of action items in your data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction and your implementation plan.
- Schedule a meeting with your district leadership and/or leaders from other schools to discuss funding sources and provisions for maintaining effective literacy initiatives and resources such as literacy coach positions.