PLL stands on the shoulders of several remarkable individuals. Vermont Reads Institute was conceived in 2000 by Marc Hull, then Vermont Commissioner of Education working closely with Sue Biggam, Vermont literacy consultant. For the first several years, VRI was housed at Vermont Institutes and directed by Pat Halloran, although staff worked under a grant to UVM. At that time, it coordinated the Reading Excellence Act grant and subsequently the Vermont Reading First Grant. In 2004, the Institutes were restructured and Vermont Reads found a home at UVM in the College of Education and Social Services, with Dr. Marjorie Lipson overseeing the enterprise from a research and development perspective. For the last 13 years, VRI at UVM served dozens of Vermont schools/districts and principals, thousands of teachers through courses and conferences, and collaborated with the state to develop and support the most effective policy and practice for students in grades K-12.
The lessons learned from almost 20 years of research and practice have resulted in a book, monographs, research presentations, professional development materials and tools used by all educators in the state. The work has been grounded in the principles and standards of high quality professional learning, coaching, leadership development, and school improvement. Although the projects of PLL are guided by empirical evidence and ongoing data collection, the focus of PLL is to share the lessons learned over the past 20 years with classroom teachers, district leaders, and policy makers. As a new entity built on the solid foundation of VRI at UVM, PLL has the strongest basis for helping schools and districts to strengthen their practice so that student outcomes are improved – for all students. As a nonprofit, we can focus on the mission of helping professionals solve the problems they face by employing an action-oriented focus that is designed to help schools “get better.”
The work of PLL is driven by several interrelated findings from research and practice. First, we support and sustain evidence-based practices in both leadership and instruction. Second, we understand that the systems within which individuals work influence – in positive and negative ways – the likelihood that individuals will improve their practice. Third, wherever possible, embedded professional supports are preferable to those that are more distant from the school/district – in part, because a degree of variability is present in these complex systems. Simple solutions do not necessarily work across contexts. Finally, our work is rooted in the finding that partnerships, collaborations, and/or networks significantly improve the chances that schools will adopt and maintain changes in practice and systems intended to improve outcomes.
As a statewide professional development provider, we employ knowledgeable staff with expertise in coaching, school improvement, systems building, and literacy. PLL employees:
- have deep experiences in designing and presenting workshops, professional development, and conferences,
- have experience mentoring and coaching coaches, administrators and teachers,
- are fluent with the principles of improvement science
- are deeply committed to their personal learning and growth as educators
- have a wealth of classroom teaching experience