Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy

by Michelle Amend, Director of PCL Center of Wisconsin

The Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy (PCL) Model is an answer to school districts’ need for systemic, continuous school improvement. The PCL model offers a complete set of services for aligning instruction, enhancing teacher knowledge, and increasing student achievement.

  • Cohesive district/school plan focused on standards-based curriculum (i.e., Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)), and utilizes current district adopted standards in other content areas;
  • Best practices in literacy instruction which are culturally and linguistically relevant and based on research as identified by the International Literacy Association (ILA);
  • Comprehensive and systemic assessment system for measuring growth at the school, classroom, and individual student levels;
  • Portfolio of evidence-based literacy interventions that align to classroom instruction and are tightly matched to student needs in all tiers of the RtI framework;
  • Literacy framework for enhancing teacher knowledge and developing expertise;
  • Technology as an instrumental part of learning;
  • Focused professional learning communities;
  • Strong embedded professional development from a trained literacy coach.

How the PCL Model works:

The PCL Clinical Center will serve a variety of school district needs that are related to the PCL model. School districts may choose to send teachers to literacy related trainings for classroom teachers and interventionists. Or, a school district may have a district literacy coach trained through a virtual distance-training model with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and contract fieldwork through the PCL Clinical Center. Or, school districts may contract with the PCL Clinical Center for customized services related to the model.

How Districts or Schools Get Started:

Interested school districts or schools who are looking for a cohesive school improvement plan that aligns curriculum, instruction, teacher effectiveness, and RtI typically begin their exploration by visiting effective schools and school districts. For example, Fort Atkinson School District was the Wisconsin winner of the 2012-2013 International Reading Association (IRA) Exemplary Reading Program Award because of their implementation of the PCL model. Other districts begin their exploration by attending local PCL institutes or engaging in book studies using the professional texts that provide the theoretical background of the model. From there, districts determine their readiness for change and inquire about the necessary steps and resources to become a PCL district or PCL school.

Why PCL and Why Now?

In an effort to provide the type of education that fosters the portrait of a literate individual as identified in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS, p. 7), school districts, unwittingly, may have launched too many initiatives since 2010 that have created silos for teachers, students, parents, administration, school boards, and education business offices. These well-intentioned efforts can result in competing demands on time, resources, and focus. Administrators are faced with a list of professional development topics to “cover” while teachers receive a shallow awareness of the next thing they are responsible for implementing with fidelity. District mandates, such as Response to Intervention, progress monitoring with probes to meet Specific Learning Disability eligibility criteria, student interventions, teacher-effectiveness, Common Core State Standards, Behavioral Support Programs, state mandated assessments and curriculum-pacing guides for each subject area can become a recipe for fragmentation when implemented in isolation. The PCL model is a refreshing solution to the concern of school initiative overload. In the PCL model, program alignment and curriculum coherence are created using content standards within an integrated framework that promotes higher-level thinking. Furthermore, resources are mobilized to fund and focus on professional development of teachers and administrators and populate classrooms with libraries full of a variety of authentic complex texts. Teaching is targeted and differentiated to meet the needs of all students. Professional learning communities collaboratively focus on student achievement. At the end of the day, teachers and administrators agree that a sound process is in place to meet the needs of all learners in the building, including the professionals!

How do I learn more about the PCL model?

You can find out more information about the PCL model by accessing the UALR Center for Literacy at or by contacting Michelle Amend, Director of the PCL Center of Wisconsin. A comprehensive explanation of the PCL model can also be found in the following two RtI texts: RtI in Literacy—Responsive and Comprehensive (2010) edited by Peter Johnston and Successful Approaches to RtI: Collaborative Practices for Improving K-12 Literacy (2010) edited by Marge Lipson and Karen Wixson.


Some Thoughts From Richard Elmore, 2008, National Staff Development Council

Professional development that is likely to have the biggest impact has a reciprocal relationship between the time you spend with your colleagues in classrooms trying to solve instructional problems and then reflective time outside of classrooms to think about what you’re going to try next. The most powerful professional development occurs in real time around real problems involving real people who actually have to make decisions about what to do on a day-to-day basis.


Literacy must be viewed through a wide-angle lens. A single program or a single teacher cannot bring about comprehensive literacy changes within a school. Systemic changes can only occur within the context of a fully implemented, comprehensive literacy design with built-in structures for aligning, coordinating, and assessing literacy growth at multiple levels (Dorn & Jones, 2012, Apprenticeship in Literacy)