You probably know the numbers. According to an EdSource Forum Report, about 30% of California students drop out of high school (May 2005). Reading at Risk tells us that nationwide “approximately 70 percent of adolescents struggle to read” (94). Clearly, improving the literacy skills of all students is, and will continue to be, a central concern for school administrators nationwide. But how?
Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground: How Some High School Accelerate Learning for Struggling Students published by the Education Trust (November 2005) suggests that successful schools are “clearly focused on preparing students for life beyond high school—specifically college and careers.” In contrast, the average schools studied “are more focused on preparing students for graduation” (5). What does this observation mean for your school?
Improving Literacy Instruction in Middle and High Schools: A Guide for Principals is a document that you may will find helpful. From the Center on Instruction at Florida State, the document provides an overview of key research-based instructional elements demonstrated to improve student literacy.
The professional development of teachers in all content areas is, of course, key to any successful literacy reform. Helping students read, write, and think productively in each of their classes is a complex task requiring concerted efforts by teachers in all subject areas. A brochure for the 2008-2009 Reading Institute at Cal State Northridge provides information about a way to help your teachers receive just such professional development. We are in our fourth year of providing professional development in literacy instruction for 9-12th grade teachers in all content areas (yes…including mathematics!). English teachers receive full training in the Expository Reading and Writing Course, the new “intended curriculum” for LAUSD’s Expository Composition course. Because the program is supported by the CSU, it costs schools nothing. In fact, participants (teachers, coaches, administrators) completing the program receive free materials and earn a stipend of $750. University credit is also available.
We strongly encourage you to begin recruiting a team of three or more teachers to participate in the 2009-2010 RIAP. One of us would be delighted to speak with your faculty about our program and its benefits. In addition, we would be delighted to work with you as you develop or augment a literacy improvement plan for your school. We look forward to hearing from you.