Just released: The Early Literacy Playbook

2022

Annual Report

We are Instruction Partners.

Letter from the CEO

Friends and colleagues,

We are far enough into this school year that memories of SY 2021–22 are a blur in the rear view mirror. But as we account for the year—accomplishments, lessons learned, and financials—I am struck by how important it was in our trajectory at Instruction Partners and the education field generally. 

During the 2021–22 school year, Instruction Partners’ focus was providing value and service to our partners as they navigated another tough year. As schools returned to in-person instruction, we returned to a more consistent core service model. We began traveling again and delighted in getting back into schools with our partners. We brought a new focus on short cycles of capacity building and progress monitoring that allowed our partners to address challenges more nimbly and effectively. This new approach helped us get clearer about the key conditions and practices leaders need to provide better support for teachers and students. As you will read in this report, we saw our partners strengthen instruction and learning, even in challenging contexts. I am incredibly proud of these results. 

As it was for our partners, the 2021–22 school year was a year of highs and lows for our organization. We lost a beloved teammate this year after a fierce battle with cancer. Like everyone, we saw higher than average rates of staff illness and family care as COVID affected almost every family on our team. Though we were able to reconnect in small groups throughout the year, for most of the year we missed that sense of team connection and alignment that comes from time all together. 

We also had some extraordinary highs. We were able to bring our entire organization back together in the summer of 2022 and celebrate our community. We saw tremendous impact across partners and in some of our emerging service work—especially early literacy. We added an extraordinary new cohort to our team. And we were grateful to receive a generous gift from Mackenzie Scott in the winter. 

The next several years of this recovery chapter will be defining for a generation of young people and for American education. We need to achieve unprecedented rates of improvement for our students in priority groups over the next several years. Instruction Partners will be working hard to serve a growing network of partners with the best of what we know while advancing our collective understanding about what leaders can do to better support teachers in accelerating student learning. We will also be planning our next five-year strategy. I look forward to sharing details about those plans next year. 

We are nothing more or less than our people—our team, our partners, our funders, and our community. I am deeply grateful for every person who supports and advances our work. I hope this report will provide lines of sight into our work, offer insights into our impact, and allow us to continue the mission of strengthening instruction together.

In service,

Emily

Providing value to our partners in this difficult year

In working with Instruction Partners, it has been like working with my long-lost school friends/colleagues who could completely relate with not only our reality but truly our needs. They always take time to listen to understand while accommodating and adapting to fit the ‘just right’ support needed to move our work forward.

Alison SmithDirector of Teaching & Learning, ESU16, NE

This was a hard year for leaders.

We saw our partners working everyday to meet the needs of their students after years of disrupted schooling. 

To best assist their efforts, we expanded our support in two key areas:

1) Short cycles of continuous improvement

We codified short cycles of continuous improvement as a means of more effectively and efficiently taking steps and monitoring progress toward annual partner goals. These short cycles enabled us to identify challenges using data, break large goals into manageable steps, plan short interventions, quickly test what worked, and adjust future actions accordingly. Because of these cycles, we were able to provide context-specific adjustments to our core implementation support based on measurements of what was happening on the ground: changes in leader practice, teacher practice, and student outcomes.

2) Professional learning conditions and practices

Most school leaders agree on the importance of dedicated time for teachers to learn and plan together and to receive actionable feedback. In our work with hundreds of schools across the country, however, we’ve found very little agreement on what that professional learning should look like. We’ve developed guidance, action plans, and rubrics to help leaders implement the conditions and practices for the two professional learning structures that make the biggest differences for leaders, teachers, and students: collaborative planning and observation and feedback. Since we launched these resources in May 2022, they have had over 680 unique downloads.

Learn more

By the numbers:

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direct school partners

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state partners

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custom projects

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students served

Instruction Partners has been an outstanding partner both in terms of the expertise they bring to supporting district leaders in leading curriculum implementation and their collaborative approach to working with us.

Phillys LynchDirector of Instruction and Curriculum, RI Department Of Education

We are seeing strong results.

We know there is a great deal of turbulence in student learning data; however, we are excited about the clear and positive difference we are seeing in the growth of students in our partner schools—particularly in states where we have a significant number of multi-year school partners.

Our Texas partners nearly doubled state growth. 

  • In non-partner schools, average proficiency grew 10.9 percentage points from SY 2021 to SY 2022. Among our 45 school partners with data from both SY 2021 and SY 2022, average proficiency grew 19.6 percentage points. And, 93% of partner schools achieved more substantial gains in students’ overall proficiency than non-partners in ELA, math, and science.

Our Tennessee partners grew more than the state across all subjects. 

  • Though the state saw no change in TVAAS average (-0.02), our 14 partner schools with data from both SY 2021 and SY 2022 saw growth in their TVAAS results in all three subjects (ELA: 0.66, math: 0.19, science: 0.18).

We are excited about the impact this progress indicates and the outcomes it represents for students. In 2022–23, we are focusing on sustaining these rates of progress for a second year—knowing that what students need is year-over-year growth at significant rates.

When I look back on the school year, and I look at the growth that the students have made, the teachers have made, and even myself as a campus leader, I know that all of that is a direct reflection of the partnership with Instruction Partners.

Allison MosleyPrincipal, Woodville ISD Elementary School, TX

What we’re learning

We work with learning partners to pilot, test, and refine new interventions, frameworks, and tools so that we can scale what we learn into our core services as well as share our findings with the field at large.

Here’s what we learned in SY 2021–22.

Helping leaders address unfinished learning

It is clear that unfinished learning—skills and knowledge from a prior grade that students did not master before they moved to the next grade—was a challenge schools faced before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also clear that disrupted schooling since the spring of 2020 exacerbated this challenge. 

To help as many students as possible reach grade-level proficiency as quickly as possible, in SY 2021–22, we worked with five learning partners to better understand how to address unfinished learning and respond to the needs of students from historically marginalized communities in Tier 1 instruction. We focused on prioritizing content in curricular materials so teachers spend more time on the most important learning (i.e., learning that is foundational to this or future years’ mastery of content).

In the coming year, we will work alongside three to five learning partners to codify conditions and strategies that can help educators meet students’ unfinished learning needs. We will update tools and resources as well share best practices on how to leverage short cycles of continuous improvement.

Our Unfinished Learning Toolkit helps educators identify the prerequisite skills and knowledge students need to be able to access grade-level content as well as what skills and knowledge can be taught through, or alongside, grade-level content. It has had over 7,204 total page views since its launch in August 2021. We updated this toolkit in June 2022 to reflect our learnings from SY 2021–22.

Learn more

Instruction Partners taught me that every single student in our building deserves grade-level content in front of them at all times. They taught me to view our students who are linguistically diverse as an asset, and that by not giving them the same opportunities as other learners, I am functioning as a gatekeeper.

Brenna EatonTeacher, Gladstone Elementary School, MO

Early Literacy

Over the last two years, we’ve deepened our understanding of what it takes to ensure that all students are proficient, on-grade-level readers by the end of 2nd grade. When we launched our pilot to better understand the structures and systems that support early literacy instruction in SY 2020–21, we started with two partner schools in one district. In SY 2021–22, we added two partner schools from a second district. Results have been encouraging: 25% of students who were in the high-risk category on the universal screener assessment in fall 2021 moved out in spring 2022. 

In November 2021, we released the Essential Practices for Early Literacy, which are grounded in research and based on our pilot work; they are freely available on our website. Since their release, our early literacy resources have had over 4,400 total page views. 

As we move into year 3 of our early literacy pilot, we are working with 10 schools in two districts, focusing on supporting and improving  instruction—particularly small-group instruction and practice opportunities. We have two priorities for our work with them:

  • Draft a replicable and scalable model that focuses on students in priority groups and moves every K–2 student to grade-level reading proficiency.
  • Determine how to best respond to the needs of multilingual learners.
Learn more

Partner spotlight on Haywood County Schools

We’ve been working with Haywood County Schools since 2018, but we didn’t begin our early literacy work with their youngest students until fall of 2020. Prior to 2020, the majority of K–2 students in Haywood County Schools qualified for reading intervention, and students receiving intervention weren’t experiencing substantial growth. This rural West Tennessee school district reimagined their approach to reading intervention and implemented the five essential practices in their literacy program to bring the vision to life.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Early literacy impact

We’ve worked with four pilot partner schools in two districts, representing approximately 550 students and 60 teachers.

Student outcome data: 

    • 25% of students in the high-risk category during the fall assessment moved out during spring assessment, representing 16% of students overall. 
      • This is 11% higher than the previous school year. 
    • 14% of students moved to “at-grade level” from the fall to spring assessment. 
      • This is 5% higher than the previous school year.

The percentages above represent all students in the district; students in priority groups (i.e., students in poverty, students of color, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities) experienced nearly identical rates of progress. 

Affirming Relationships

Since our Rethinking Intervention project highlighted the importance of relationships and learning, we have sought to further understand this connection. In SY 2021–22, we conducted a landscape analysis to learn more about what affirming relationships look like in practice. We synthesized research and interviewed 14 high-performing organizations as well as several experts in the field. To build on our academic findings, we conducted shoulder-to-shoulder design work with one high school partner in rural Tennessee. 

Through this work we codified a diagnostic process to better understand students’ experiences within their school, with an emphasis on relationships between teachers and students and how teachers cultivate affirming relationships with students. Additionally, we developed an initial framework that guides school and system leaders through the key components and steps needed to build a vision and set goals for affirming relationships alongside academic outcomes. 

However, we found that it was challenging for teachers to translate relationships from an advisory setting, where our initial work was based, to content classrooms. In SY 2022–23, we plan to work with two pilot sites and re-center our work on building additional supports that facilitate affirming relationships in classrooms and guidance that empowers teachers and leaders to use data about student experience effectively.

Looking ahead

Strategic planning process

In spring of 2022, we began the work of developing a set of strategies to increase our impact and sustainability. We are working through a series of strategic questions to define the scope and scale of impact aspirations for our next chapter: 2024–29. 

By the end of SY 2022–23, we will develop updated recommendations for:

  • Impact goals for each group of stakeholders we work with (e.g., leaders, teachers, students) 
  • Updates to our service design to increase impact and efficiency
  • The vision around what and how we will deepen our expertise in the next chapter of our learning agenda so that we are able to meet our impact goals
  • The conditions necessary to develop impactful school and system partnerships and the most effective timeline for service
  • Allocation of the generous gift we received from Mackenzie Scott in winter 2022
  • Our desired organizational size and scale over the next five years 

During the 2023–24 school year we will plan for implementation and launch the new strategy 2024–25.

Financials

Thank you to our generous funders!

We’d like to thank our champions for helping us create effective solutions for school, system, and state leaders.

This support puts us one step closer to a future where all students experience an excellent education that prepares them to contribute to their community, achieve economic security, and pursue their dreams.

Our current champions:

  • Anonymous
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
  • Crown Family Foundation
  • First Horizon Foundation
  • Hall Family Foundation
  • Hyde Family Foundation
  • Joe C. Davis Foundation
  • Knox Education Foundation
  • Koshland Foundation
  • The Louis Calder Foundation
  • Mackenzie Scott
  • New Schools Venture Fund
  • Overdeck Family Foundation
  • The Meadows Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • New Profit
  • Oak Foundation
  • Roberts Foundation
  • T.L.L. Temple Foundation
  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Scarlett Family Foundation
  • Silver Giving
  • The Mind Trust

Download our Statement of Activities and Statement of Financial Position below.

Download financials