A Letter from the Director of The Windward Institute
Alexis Pochna, EdM

When reading proficiency remains a persistently elusive goal for large numbers of children in this country, immediate, decisive, and pervasive action is required. Decades of research in the Science of Reading present a clear path forward; yet, literacy instruction based on research remains out of reach for an unconscionable number of students and their families. The Windward Institute’s mission of increasing childhood literacy rates by disrupting the educational status quo could not be more timely or urgent.  

I have arrived at my new appointment as the Director of The Windward Institute after many years of direct work with students, teachers, and families in a variety of roles at The Windward School. I have been humbled and privileged to witness firsthand the profound impact that research-based and research-informed practices have on literacy development and to work among colleagues deeply committed to bringing translational science to the classroom. (See more about how The Windward Institute is advancing translational science in the article, “The Windward Institute: An Exemplar of Translational Science,” by John J. Russell, EdD.) 

At The Windward School, teachers receive extensive training in the framework of intensive intervention described in the Head Lines article by Jamie Williamson, EdS. In our rapidly changing world, instructional time is an increasingly precious commodity. Robust, sustained teacher training rooted in evidence equips educators to deliver the efficacious instruction that should be the norm in our schools, not the exception. An important aspect of this training includes a laser focus on the language of instruction, which is far more nuanced than casual conversation, to support student understanding and facilitate the development of language skills across multiple domains.   

In this issue of The Beacon, research by The Windward Institute’s Fall Lecturer, Tiffany Hogan, PhD, sheds light on developmental language disorders and the language basis of dyslexia. Since students with reading difficulties often have more widespread language deficits, this is a critical area of attention for researchers, practitioners, and educators. As Lydia Soifer, PhD, points out in her article, “Language: The Vehicle That Drives Curriculum,” school-based learning is a language-dependent and language-intensive experience. It is therefore imperative that language skills are assessed through a comprehensive lens and that interventions are appropriately targeted and monitored. See Dr. Soifer’s article for practical strategies that can be implemented in the classroom to optimize instructional language and promote language skill development. 

Language instruction and teacher training are only two of the themes that run throughout this issue of The Beacon. As you explore the featured articles, I hope that you will join The Windward Institute in its commitment to inform teaching and learning with proven research and to sharing the tools and methodologies with a track record of success.