After 30 years in public education, as a teacher, administrator, and superintendent, I decided in July 2021 to focus my energies entirely on addressing the adolescent literacy crisis, partnering with my wife, Deborah Reck.
Almost two-thirds of all high school students can’t read grade-level texts, depriving them of access to the sophisticated ideas in science, history, and literature that engage them. Facing classes of students who range from five years below grade level to above grade level, teachers often feel helpless.
As CEO of Riveting Results®, I ensure that as we grow we are always focused on making it possible for every ninth and tenth grader to read complex text. Riveting Results helps administrators and teachers implement Riveting Results by attending to educators' particular needs and delivering its program so that it works for every teacher in every classroom. I am spending most of my time meeting with school leaders and teachers to share our results with them and get their feedback. As we expand, we are also building systems that will enable us to continue to identify our successes and our struggles and to relentlessly refine the product and its delivery.
My experience in education over the past 30 years has given me the skills to implement such a vision. Throughout my 10 years as a history teacher, I strove to engage every one of my students every day in deep and rigorous study. With my wife, Deborah Reck, I co-founded a nonprofit, The Writers’ Express, to figure out the best ways to guide students to enjoy writing and become better at it. As an administrator for 20 years in both urban (Boston and Gloucester) and suburban schools (Concord and Wayland), I built and supported teacher and administrative teams that analyzed formative data to determine what teaching approaches unlocked students’ potential, particularly those of reluctant students. As a superintendent in Wayland, Massachusetts, I guided the district to implement multitiered academic and emotional supports that enabled all students to have a rigorous academic experience.
Figuring out how students learn to read and write has long been a passion of mine. From 1994, when Deborah and I co-founded it, to the present, I co-directed and served as the Board Chair for The Writers’ Express (now SummerInk), a nonprofit summer writing camp for middle and high school students. During this time, we developed an instructional model that helped thousands of campers from a wide variety of backgrounds find their voices as writers. The nonprofit also developed a classroom curriculum used in three different national ELA programs for students in grades 3–10.
I graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in history. I received my master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Brown University in 1991, and my EdD in Educational Leadership from Boston College in 2009.
I began working in education 30 years ago as a history teacher in a Baltimore City middle school. I saw that once my students could express their ideas in writing, they became excited about learning, and even about reading challenging primary sources. But I could not find a reliable approach to get all students to produce writing and to make progress in their skills.
In 1994, my husband, Arthur Unobskey, and I founded a nonprofit, The Writers’ Express, to develop and refine an approach to writing instruction. After expanding the organization’s work into reading instruction in 2006, I worked with a team to develop the writing program for McGraw Hill’s core curriculum, Treasures. In 2009, while working on the Common Core State Standards, I realized that we needed to do more R&D to develop a comprehensive program that would help teachers reach these standards. To access the necessary resources for this R&D, I worked with The Writers’ Express board to sell the organization to Wireless Generation, later renamed “Amplify” when that organization was bought by News Corp. in 2010.
For five years, I led Amplify’s development of a digital ELA program from concept to adoption by the state of California in 2015, spending significant time in classrooms watching how various instructional activities worked—and didn’t. After seeing how complex technology can distract teachers from their essential focus on students’ skills and ideas, I left Amplify to found Riveting Results®. I wanted to create a simple program that enables teachers to focus on the vitality of students’ ideas and use that energy to drive high school and postsecondary achievement.
The activities and texts used in Riveting Results® have been culled from the instructional methods I developed or observed over the last 30 years and based on the latest in the science of reading and brain science. With feedback from piloting teachers and many former colleagues, I have designed technology and print tools from scratch to ensure that these instructional tools work every day for every teacher with all students.
Currently, I am spending my time watching teachers use Riveting Results® in the classroom and in remote settings, looking at the work students are producing in response to the Riveting Results® activities, learning from teachers about their experiences using the program, and continuously adjusting both the content (wording of questions, books, and selected passages, editorial guidance for teachers) and the design of the apps (simplifying the sequence of instruction, presentation of data, and app-enabled student-teacher and student-student interactions). My own growth is on a steep upward trajectory.
I received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, double-majoring in history and humanities, and I received a Master’s in the Art of Social Studies Teaching from Brown University. I remain a lifelong student of the greatest books and wisest people I can find, some of whom teach me daily in their roles on our staff and on our Advisory Board.
When the Common Core Standards were published in 2010,
standards alignment was "best practice" for curriculum developers. But over ten years later, anyone can see that the standards alignment approach has not worked to raise the reading and writing performance of our nation's students. NAEP scores show no gains for students using these approaches.
So, Riveting Results uses the best practices from the latest in the science of reading and brain science to grow students' performance, measured daily by our own formative assessments and confirmed by nationally recognized standardized tests.