Put learning in high gear

By Jeremy Avins, Nathan Huttner and Sherrill C. Miller
June 2019
Vol. 40, No. 3
In 2016, the Wake County Public School System in North Carolina, the nation’s 15th-largest school district, confronted two dilemmas common in U.S. education. First, a quality review had revealed weaknesses in its literacy curriculum. Although curriculum can have profound effects on student learning, not all curricula are rigorous and engaging (Steiner, 2017). Second, Wake struggled with professional learning for new literacy standards and practice shifts. Research has found that teaching expertise is the most important factor in school effectiveness, but few teachers believe their professional learning is effective (Wiener & Pimentel, 2017; TNTP, 2015). To address these difficulties, Wake adopted EL Education’s open-source 3-8 language arts instructional model. This model integrates a standards-aligned curriculum aimed at challenging, engaging, and empowering students with paced assessments, detailed

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Jeremy Avins, Nathan Huttner, and Sherrill C. Miller

Jeremy Avins ( is an associate principal and Nathan Huttner ( is a director and the chief operating officer at Redstone Strategy Group. Sherrill C. Miller ( is director of literacy, K-12, for Wake County Public School System.


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Krajcik, J. & Delen, I. (2017). The benefits and limitations of educative curriculum materials. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 28(1), 1-10.

Kramer, P. (2015). Meet East Ramapo’s new schools chief, Deborah Wortham. The Journal News. Available at

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). 2015-16 Public School District Directory. Available at

Steiner, D. (2017). Curriculum research: What we know and where we need to go. Washington, DC: StandardsWork.

Taylor, K. (2015). Team from New York Education Department to study troubled East Ramapo Schools. The New York Times. Available at

TNTP. (2015). The Mirage. New York, NY: Author.

Wake County Public School System. (2018). District facts. Available at

Wiener, R. & Pimentel, S. (2017). Practice what you teach. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.

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