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How do we work to advance systemic equity?

The IDEA framework for advancing systemic equity 

We advance systemic equity by creating a healthier literacy ecosystem for all systems leaders, principals, teachers, students and families. We believe that a healthy literacy ecosystem fixes the broader structures that create inequitable opportunities and outcomes for learners. In short, we aim to overcome systemic challenges by thinking and acting: 

Institutionally: We embrace a long-term view of science and develop innovative and replicable literacy solutions for addressing grand challenges that are persistent, pervasive, and provocative. We develop innovative and replicable solutions to fix the entire ecosystem --the water, not simply the fish-- in the broader literacy environment (Winn & McKinney, 2014).  Thus, we measure institutional impact by asking: 

  • How well does our partnership advance systemic equity by adopting, sustaining, and funding innovative and replicable solutions that impact the whole literacy ecosystem—the professional learning, curriculum, instruction, and interventions offered to all teachers and students?  

  • How well does our partnership advance systemic equity by using systemic indicators to measure and promote the health of the literacy ecosystem—the opportunities for all students to master important words that appear in grade-appropriate content and assignments?  

Developmentally. We catalyze children’s literacy development by sustaining and aligning content and practices across grades. Thus, we measure the scale and reach of our solutions by asking: 

  • How well does our partnership advance systemic equity by embedding innovative and replicable solutions into routine educational practice—the scope and sequence guiding curriculum and instruction requirements for schools? 

Experimentally. We conduct experiments and replicate findings to determine what works, for whom, and under what conditions.  Thus, we measure the impact of our experimental work by asking: 

  • How well does our partnership advance systemic equity by identifying and scaling core components of our innovative and replicable literacy solutions?

Adaptively. We foster structured teacher adaptations of innovative and replicable literacy solutions to bridge the research-practice divide. Thus, we measure the impact of structured adaptations by asking: 

  • How well does our partnership advance systemic equity by empowering teachers to enact structured adaptations that integrate research and professional knowledge to improve teacher and student engagement? 

Our organizational theory and strategy 

The READS Lab is guided by an organizational theory that emphasizes the creation of scientific research that is shared in top-tiered, peer-reviewed journals.  As a university-based research organization that partners with education leaders, the READS Lab sustains value-creating science by leveraging 3 “sights” – foresight, insight, and cross-sight (Wenger, 2014). Through foresight, we aim to predict and anticipate the needs of society, schools, and educational institutions. Through insight; we leverage, rare, valuable, and distinctive assets including experimental, longitudinal, and mixed methods data for research as well as a distinctive mission, vision, and IDEAS framework for advancing systemic equity. Through cross-sight, we organize our complementary assets—our intellectual, social, and financial capital—to continually create value for society through our research. To build our intellectual capital, we conduct strategic replications and publish studies based on our experiments, measurement of contexts, and structured teacher adaptations. We build social capital through long-term partnerships with educational institutions, including state and local education agencies and community-based, non-profit organizations. Finally, we build financial capital by seeking public and private sector grants, and by engaging in collaborative projects with school districts and non-profit organizations. 



Todd Wenger. (2013). “What is the theory of your firm?” Harvard Business Review. 


Donna-Marie Winn and Marvin H. McKinney. (2014). “The Toxins in the Water Infect the Fish,” White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Jackson, MS) on the Leveraging School Community Partnerships and Public and Private Partnerships to Ensure African American Educational Excellence (Invited Panelist), 2014. 

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