Dr. Lydia Carlis, Chief of Research & Innovation
AppleTree Institute and AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter Schools
|Dr. Lydia Carlis receives the 2012 Bill Ellis Award from
NCLD Board member, Drake D. Duane, M.D.
Dr. Lydia Carlis, the 2012 winner of the Bill Ellis Teacher Preparation Award, exemplifies dedication to the art and science of teaching in a truly inclusive environment. Dr. Carlis currently serves as Chief of Research and Innovation for the AppleTree Institute, which provides accelerated early language and literacy programs to the underserved preschoolers of Washington, DC, to raise the trajectory of their future learning success. In her current role, Dr. Carlis is responsible for development, deployment, and validation of AppleTree’s instructional model, Every Child Ready. She also oversees policy development on implementation protocols for AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter Schools instructional activities including academic programs, student support services, assessment and evaluation, and professional development.
A lifelong educator who holds a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction and Bilingual Special Education from The George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Maryland, Dr. Carlis has an unrelenting focus on the importance of active engagement with data. Under her leadership, formal screening data is regularly collected on the 620 students served by the AppleTree schools. Curriculum-based assessments are conducted in three-week cycles, and staff receive ongoing professional development on reviewing and acting on collected data to make sure that no child is allowed to fall through the cracks. This approach allows learning goals to be targeted and shared among teachers and with parents, and needed interventions are implemented without delay.
Dr. Carlis believes that addressing the needs of children includes all children, including those with learning disabilities and others who struggle to learn. Early in her teaching career, she began studying special education as a means to better support her first grade classroom of diverse learners. As a graduate student, she learned about Response-to-Intervention (RTI) and found that the principals of RTI were a natural support for her inclusive educational philosophy.
When Dr. Carlis joined AppleTree in 2007 as a Literacy Coach, she immediately connected with the organization’s mission to close the achievement gap for children before kindergarten and their use of the RTI model to meet this goal. She has been central in the development of Every Child Ready, AppleTree’s comprehensive preschool curriculum that employs a three-tiered RTI model.
Colleagues at AppleTree describe Dr. Carlis as a leader who is wired to collaborate. She is able to help all stakeholders in students’ lives—their parents, teachers, classroom aides, and school volunteers—understand how monitoring young students’ progress is critical to their preparation for school success. She deeply understands the whole child and how young children’s academic, social, and emotional needs can be met by a program where they “play with a purpose.”
Dr. Carlis is an example of the tremendous impact one person can have in helping parents, educators, and school administrators join hands to meet the needs of all students, especially those who struggle with learning. Like Bill Ellis, she understands that making smart decisions and delivering high quality, effective instruction is all about blending teamwork with professional wisdom, intuition with data and charging ahead with relentless energy to ensure that children are afforded the best possible opportunities to succeed in school, at work, and in life.