A dedicated team from Cedar Valley, IA, attended a 2017 institute and went back to their community with a new and complete understanding of what was working, and what needed to be changed. Read more from their leader, Lekeisha Veasley, on how they are advancing their campaign to get to literacy success for all.
What challenges were you facing within your organization’s work and the overall Cedar Valley campaign prior to the Lectio institute/partnership?
When we started our reading campaign, Cedar Valley Readers, we utilized best practices recommended by the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading; we weren’t quite sure, though, if these practices best matched our community’s context and needs. We needed an approach that allowed us to assess and evaluate our programs and overall campaign strategy in light of our needs and challenges —the demographics, barriers, our goals, etc.
Given the many layers and breadth of the campaign, as the coordinator I wasn’t sure how to go about assessing our current efforts, making realistic and effective adjustments, and then implementing an evaluation strategy to make sure our plan and programs translated into our overall goal—all kids reading at grade level. Knowing that we were also fairly early in our campaign implementation, we recognized that this was the best time to take a critical look and make the needed changes to our strategies and programs, particularly to see if our “wins” were real ones—getting to child outcomes rather than just outputs, i.e., activities.
Lastly, we were grappling with partner engagement—ways to reenergize and engage them in a deeper way with the work. We are committed to a collective impact model, and at that time, reengagement was key for moving forward.
What about the Lectio approach resonated with you, and specifically applied to your organization’s and community’s work?
The Lectio approach resonated with me because it placed a mirror in front our team, metaphorically speaking. It challenged us to take a critical look at what we were doing and ask the proverbial question: are these the right programmatic investments to net the results and outcomes we are aiming for?
Rather than coming in and telling us what needed to be done or point out what wouldn’t work, the Lectio experience guided us to these key learnings and findings. It’s an approach that provides the tools for self-examination and critical thinking—and allowed us to take full ownership of our decisions around the campaign’s direction. With this hands-on, team-based approach, we dissected and grappled with our campaign programming and strategies.
Because we examined our programming as a team and utilized tools to help make clearer connections among needs, strategies, and outcomes, I walked away feeling confident in our decisions.
What kind of changes have you and your team made as a result of the program analysis you engaged in?
Since the Lectio Institute, we have made changes to our overall campaign strategy and programming. Guided by the Program Design Evaluation Tool, we assessed and improved our summer learning academy; we have implemented more comprehensive professional development for our instructors and enrichment specialist; and we added a formative assessment to complement our current reading assessment (FAST).
We have focused our overall efforts to implement strategies that provide a clearer path from need to outcome. Now, anyone who looks at our efforts and our intended outcomes will see this alignment and not get lost in translation. Lectio provided the tools to do this.
Finally, when looking at our campaign strategies and making decisions about adding or streamlining strategies, our steering team is recommitting to the critical question: “will this result in the intended outcome?”