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Our Top Posts from 2020

Now that 2020 has come to a close, we are reflecting on some of our most read and revisited blog posts from the year. Unsurprisingly, many are related to advise around teaching in virtual and socially distanced classroom environments as well as leading in challenging times.

Do you have suggestions for topics you would like us to cover in 2021? Or would you like to contribute to our blog?

We’d love to hear from you! Email us to send along your ideas.

Invest in continuous learning! We offer professional learning opportunities designed to support literacy instruction for PreK-8 educators.

$3 Million Gift Endows Dr. Gay Su Pinnell Fund for Reading Recovery®

Gift furthers Lesley’s pre-eminence in innovative research on literacy education.

(The following is from a news release posted here.)

Yesterday saw the announcement of a generous $3 million gift from Gay Su Pinnell through her charitable fund with The Columbus Foundation. The gift will endow the Dr. Gay Su Pinnell Fund for Reading Recovery® and Literacy and will support the Center for Reading Recovery® and Literacy Collaborative at our Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Pinnell’s connection to Lesley University includes a more than three-decade collaboration with Lesley Professor Irene Fountas. The two are among the nation’s pre-eminent scholars in literacy education, having co-authored dozens of books and publications including “Guided Reading,” which revolutionized reading instruction in the United States.

In expressing her deep appreciation for Dr. Pinnell’s gift, Lesley President Janet L. Steinmayer said, “Gay Su Pinnell’s gift will be transformative in helping Lesley to remain at the forefront of innovation in the human arts and literacy education. Her vision and close collaboration with Irene Fountas have had a tremendous impact on generations of Lesley-trained educators and their students. Educating teachers who can ‘crack the code’ of literacy to children who struggle in reading is at the core of Lesley’s social justice mission.”

Professor Fountas, who holds the Marie M. Clay Endowed Chair in Early Literacy and Reading Recovery®, is the founding director of our Center for Reading Recovery® & Literacy Collaborative.

“I have been privileged with the opportunity to collaborate with this giant in literacy education for many years, having learned firsthand that life can be different for our children in schools,” said Fountas. “We at the center are enormously grateful for Dr. Pinnell’s vision and her lifetime of professional and philanthropic generosity. This remarkable gift will be instrumental in transforming educational systems to impact generations of children, ensuring each child’s human right to a literate life.”

Lesley’s Center for Reading Recovery® is one of 19 nationwide, offering its unique and innovative literacy interventions to thousands of young students each year. Over the past three decades, the program has provided high-quality reading instruction to more than 2.3 million first graders in the lowest 20 percent of their reading classes. The center partners with schools on system-based measures to improve literacy outcomes for children, especially those in marginalized subgroups and children who struggle to read and write. Its highly trained faculty speak to the needs of practicing educators in accessible, realistic, and effective ways. It also offers a variety of professional development opportunities for educators and school leaders including an annual Literacy for All Conference for Pre-K-8 teachers.

Emphasizing the positive impact this gift will have at Lesley and beyond, Professor Fountas said, “There has never been a more important time to marshal resources to assist students who struggle to read. This gift will help secure the future of Reading Recovery® for children in the entire Northeastern United States for years to come. Gay Su Pinnell’s deep passion and commitment to social justice have been evident since her early revolutionary work on behalf of the lowest-achieving children in the United States.”

Pinnell and Fountas were the recipients of the 2018 International Literacy Association’s Diane Lapp & James Flood Professional Collaborator Award. Lesley awarded Pinnell an honorary doctorate at its 2018 Commencement, where she was a guest speaker.

Case Study: William Ellery Channing Elementary School

The Channing School’s partnership with the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative began in 2014 when the school was identified by the Massachusetts Department of Education as a turnaround school. Principal Carline Pignato worked closely with CRRLC faculty to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for literacy improvement focusing on improving the knowledge and decision-making expertise of teachers. A school-wide focus on literacy and dedicated teamwork helped Channing exit turnaround status and earn 3rd grade MCAS results that greatly surpassed the rest of the district.


Channing’s educators invested in a school-wide learning culture by developing expertise and leadership at all levels. CRRLC helped Channing refine their school-wide literacy vision and implementation plan to include embedded and ongoing professional learning with a focus on developing a teacher’s understandings of how to observe and respond to reading behaviors for all students. Center faculty also visited the school frequently to give feedback and support reflection on practices to continue improvement. Reading Recovery and Leveled Literacy Intervention were provided for students who struggle with literacy.


Improvements at Channing have been substantial and sustainable. State test performance allowed Channing to exit turnaround status. The school’s educators take the most pride in knowing they collectively took bold action to prioritize literacy instruction that supports the joy of reading and writing. In the words of Principal Pignato, “Students didn’t need to change. They already had joy in their hearts. We just needed the right tools to teach and lead better in order to help students bring out their joy– and growth follows.”

“Nothing makes our day more than seeing a student immersed in a book of their choice and eager to talk about it with their peers and teachers. However, the literacy outcomes we planned for were not materializing, because as adults, we lacked the deep understanding of the reading and writing processes required in order to ensure that our students would become the lifelong independent thinkers, readers and writers that we envisioned for them.”

Principal Carline Pignato


Improvements in state test scores at Channing have been impressive. While the district’s 3rd grade proficiency rates have been stagnant since 2016-17, Channing’s 3rd grade proficiency has accelerated at an incredible rate. While still below state proficiency rates, Channing has outperformed the district and shown a growth rate at more than ten times that of the rest of the state.

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