Hill Learning Center, an education nonprofit serving K-12 educators and students, helps students with learning differences and attention challenges become confident, independent learners. In the fall of 2016, Hill Learning Center (Hill) launched the East Durham Learning Collaborative (EDLC) to inform the development of the Hill Learning System and HillRAP Digital (app delivery of HillRAP) as a platform to help meet the literacy needs of students in high poverty schools and to explore new delivery models within the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP). HillRAP is a copyrighted, structured reading intervention program delivered on a 4:1 basis by HillRAP tutors, school-based teachers, or Teacher’s Assistants (TAs) who have received extensive training from Hill Learning Center in multisensory structured language development. HillRAP provides teachers with leveled support, monitoring, and coaching from Hill reading specialists throughout the school year.
Case Study Schools
There are six public schools administering the HillRAP program via HillRAP Digital in Durham and Edgecombe Counties (and over 300 teachers and 3,000 students using HillRAP across NC and other states). Four schools – Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, Maureen Joy Charter School, Eastway Elementary School, and Global Scholars Academy – participated in this case study to identify commonalities and differences among the schools’ approaches to HillRAP. Each of these four schools has administered the HillRAP program for at least two years. They each have a high level of commitment to the HillRAP program, and they have worked through many of the challenges that are common in the first years of implementing a new program. During the course of site visits to each of these four schools, we looked at the unique ways each individual school varied in its implementation of the HillRAP program. While some schools have certified HillRAP teachers, other schools utilize HillRAP tutors, and a few schools use a hybrid approach. These differences in implementation, combined with the school’s overall commitment to the HillRAP program and training, appear to result in varied experiences for students and teachers, as well as for the school overall. Several common themes emerged during the site visits to the case study schools that can provide lessons-learned for other current and future schools implementing HillRAP, as well as for Hill Learning Center in considering the support that schools need.
During the site visits some common themes emerged that speak more broadly to the issue of successful implementation of the HillRAP program.
- Leadership, Culture, and Whole School Commitment to HillRAP
- Professional Learning and Training/Connection with Hill Learning Center
- Fidelity of HillRAP Implementation/Flexibility of Implementation that Honors Teachers’ Judgement
- Data Tracking/Use of Data
Hill Learning Center designed the HillRAP program to have a degree of flexibility in implementation, giving teachers the ability to use their professional judgment about which skills/parts of the program not to include in a particular session. Flexibility with implementation is important, but fidelity to the HillRAP model with as little adaptation as possible is essential to the success of the program. It became clear during the site visits that a broad array of school staff knowledge about HillRAP coupled with teachers who understand the HillRAP program and how it’s implemented are essential to the program’s success. HillRAP data should be understood and utilized by the classroom teachers as well as HillRAP teachers, with the implementation of the program being improved due to the closeness of this relationship. Support and mentorship from Hill is also an essential part of the program’s success. Teachers who feel they can ask questions about HillRAP or about a particular student involved with HillRAP or about using the HillRAP app felt more secure in implementing the model, and that security and confidence trickled down to the students themselves.
Based upon the experiences of Hill Learning Center and specifically the four schools in this case study, the following recommendations emerged for how best to support successful HillRAP implementation in schools:
- Include principal or school leadership in the HillRAP training.
- Engage everyone in the building.
- Move towards a competency-based training program.
- Emphasize the importance of consistent coaching.
The case study includes specific examples from each of the schools and perspectives and lessons learned directly from administrators, teachers, and students. The context, challenges, and opportunities are also presented for each theme and recommendation.