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SIPPS Tutoring Success in Texas: An Interview with Literacy Now

In this spotlight, we’re honored to feature our Texas-based partner Literacy Now and their Chief Operating Officer Jacklyn Minimah-Wilson, who discusses the organization’s use of SIPPS® in their Reading Intervention tutoring program, which serves striving readers at 20 schools in Houston and Aldine ISDs.

Tell us a little about yourself, your organization, your staff, and the students you serve.

My name is Jacklyn Minimah-Wilson, and I am the Chief Operating Officer for Literacy Now, which is based in Houston, Texas. I’ve been with the organization for a little over five years.

Literacy Now provides reading readiness and reading intervention tutoring programs, parent engagement, and trained volunteer mentors for our Lunch Bunch program—all elements contributing to children’s long-term success.

We support children and their families throughout Houston with our overarching goal to empower students to read on grade level by the end of third grade, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will graduate from high school and be ready to pursue postsecondary goals. 

Tell us about Literacy Now’s Reading Intervention tutoring program.

The heart and soul of Literacy Now has been and will continue to be our Reading Intervention program. We are serving 1,328 striving readers in kindergarten through 2nd grade at 16 Houston ISD Title 1 schools and 4 Aldine ISD Title 1 schools this year. Ninety-three percent of our students are in low-income households. 

This one-of-a-kind program provides 25 weeks of individualized small-group (4:1 ratio) reading instruction with the goal of creating proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade. The program is specifically designed to close the gap between students’ reading grade level and their actual grade level. 

Highly trained, paid interventionists provide hands-on instruction that meet the students’ individual learning needs through mastery of foundational reading skills and relationship building.

With more than 960 years of combined past teaching experience, our program staff is a diverse group of caring and child-centered individuals that have a heart to help struggling readers succeed in the classroom and beyond.  

Striving readers enjoying a book together

Literacy Now’s Reading Intervention program has been very successful. Looking ahead, what is the growth expectation for Literacy Now?

Due to the overwhelming needs in our community and the success of our Reading Intervention program, Literacy Now is currently in the middle of a five-year strategic plan to significantly expand our reach to serve more children. 

We are proud to announce that in a little over three years, we have been able to expand our Reading Intervention program from 10 schools in Houston ISD to 20 schools in Houston and Aldine ISDs, representing a 134 percent growth in the number of students served.

Our expansion campaign will continue through the 2024–2025 school year and beyond in order to increase our reach even further. 

We are looking to expand to schools where 60 percent or fewer of students score “approaching grade level” on the 3rd grade STAAR reading exam. Currently within Houston and Aldine ISDs, there are more than 50 additional elementary schools that meet this criterion and would greatly benefit from our program.

That expansion is incredibly exciting. As Literacy Now grows, how are you tracking and evaluating the impact of your work and students’ progress?

Literacy Now is committed to rigorous program evaluation. Assessment data and participant surveys provide information to understand and track our impact, and to make any needed adjustments. 

Students are assessed throughout the school year with developmentally appropriate tests and activities to evaluate foundational reading skills, fluency, and comprehension. A pre-assessment provides information to form instructional groups, adapt lesson plans, and establish a baseline for measuring progress.

Mastery check assessments and ongoing monitoring are used to modify lessons and strategies to ensure substantial growth for each student. Post-tests measure students’ progress and program success.

How did Literacy Now first learn about Collaborative Classroom and SIPPS

In early spring of 2019, my team and I researched curricula that focused explicitly on foundational skills to support struggling readers. I came across Collaborative Classroom through an article I read regarding the success of the SIPPS program in California. 

Then I noticed in one of my Facebook groups, a Reading Specialist in Texas mentioned how successful the program was in her district.    

Tell us about Literacy Now’s SIPPS implementation.  

Before Covid, we were already planning to change our curriculum. In the fall of 2020, we transitioned to SIPPS in a hybrid setting. We worked with 608 students in Houston ISD, across ten campuses. Ninety-six percent of our students made growth by the end of that school year.  

What do you appreciate about SIPPS? What do your reading specialists appreciate about it?

We love that we see our students progress with SIPPS. We also love that SIPPS is based on practices supported by evidence and current science of reading research.

We love that we see our students’ confidence rise when they come to their class and know what to expect because of the SIPPS routines. We love when they are able to apply their new skills to the little readers. We love the steady progression of lessons and that they fit within our time constraints. We also like the materials and access to the Collaborative Classroom Learning Portal and all the resources.

We love that we see our students progress with SIPPS. We also love that SIPPS is based on practices supported by evidence and current science of reading research.

What have you noticed about students’ learning and engagement with SIPPS? What have reading teachers noticed?

We have noticed that all students are making progress. When SIPPS routines are established, students are fully engaged and confident. Reading teachers notice the effects of a good routine and love seeing results.

How has your work with Collaborative Classroom and SIPPS impacted Literacy Now teaching practices and/or professional learning?

Collaborative Classroom and the resources available have changed our teaching practices immensely. Practices are becoming more in line with current research and more systematic and prescriptive. The videos on the Learning Portal and QR codes within the teacher’s manual make professional learning easily accessible.

What might you say about the responsiveness of Collaborative Classroom to your needs or questions?

The Collaborative Classroom team is very responsive to any questions, concerns or requests that we have. We truly appreciate our partnership and especially our Texas Manager of Educational Partnerships Dawn Castilleja. 

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About Jacklyn Minimah-Wilson

Jacklyn Minimah-Wilson is the Chief Operating Officer of Literacy Now. She started with Literacy Now in November 2017 as the Program Director. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Oklahoma and her M.S. in Education Leadership Policy Studies from the University of Texas in Arlington. She has 20+ years of experience in early childhood to secondary education. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Jack & Jill of American, Inc.  

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