All schools in New Haven have had various literacy programs aimed at increasing student success in reading and writing. We had Terry Johnson Strategies, California Literature Project, Rebecca Sitton Spelling, and McCracken Spelling Through Phonics. There have probably been others I am unable to recall. Most recently we had CELL and ExCeLL with two literacy coaches. While performing duties as literacy coaches, the teachers were also full time classroom teachers. According to the action plan of the Strategic Plan (1.11) New Haven was to develop a model for literacy instruction. The new literacy model adapted was Writers Workshop. However, according to Sally Kaneko this was not new for New Haven. It was used in the 1980s by teachers working on Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP). It was also research based but came out of the University of California.
In 2006 Cheri Benafield was named Literacy Specialist for the district. Glynn Thompson and Benafield's main thrust was to help the district reach a goal that 85 percent of all students will be proficient on state assessments by 2010. At that time the current achievement level was about 50 percent. (Rick La Plant. Promotions and changes in New Haven Unified. Tri-City Voice. Aug. 8. 2006)
The District began piloting Writing Workshop in some classrooms midway through the 2006-07 school year. According to Glynn Thompson, at that time, Chief Academic Officer of New Haven School District, "Writing is the highest and most rigorous competency in literacy". Writing Workshop is the foundational piece to the district's literacy plan. (Rick La Plant. New Haven Community Forum summary. Tri-City Voice. Oct 24, 2007.)
In Writing Workshop, a research-based approach from Columbia University, the teaching of writing happens daily and the focus is on authentic writing. The writing process is emphasized, published pieces are celebrated, and rubrics are used to promote consistency across grade levels, within each school and throughout the District.
Implemented in New Haven kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms in 2007-08, Writing Workshop was expanded to grades 3-5 in 2008-09. Alvarado became a full Title I school in 2007-2008. Due to the funding of being a full Title I school, Alvarado has been fortunate to have two full time Writing Workshop literacy coaches, Rachel Saucedo, and Colleen Paltrineri. Ms. Saucedo was a former classroom and ESL teacher and Mrs. Paltrineri was a former classroom teacher. They received extensive training within the district and at the Columbia University training center.
Staff meetings were now only twice a month and there were no more Wednesday mornings for trainings. Two full time literacy coaches who could go into the classrooms on a daily basis to teach Writers Workshop lessons to students was the most practical method for obtaining training for teachers. Teachers watch, learn, and then try the techniques on their own.