Literacy

AVID: A Transformative Pathway for School Improvement

Guest post by Nick Nelson

During the 2015–16 school year, The Dalles High School in Oregon was awarded a state grant for AVID training. We didn’t know much about AVID at the time, just that it was a philosophy centered on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading, and that its goal was to close the achievement gap.

The grant allowed a team of five teaching staff, me, and one additional administrator to attend the initial summer AVID-training session. After that session, our team began to grasp more concretely the significance of what we were involved in and the potential impact AVID could have on our instructional practice with targeted students and schoolwide. What we didn’t know was how instrumental AVID would be in creating a powerful cultural transformation for our high school. (more…)

Building Community and Literacy: One Book, One School Program

Guest post by Maureen Doyle Kemmett

Compelled to increase literacy skills in students and build a stronger school culture, our leadership team at Furnace Brook Middle School (FBMS) in Marshfield, MA, initiated a One Book, One School (OBOS) program in 2013. After spending the better part of a school year forming a literacy committee, researching OBOS programs, and (more…)

Leading Literacy for Learning…in the Golden Age of Literacy

Literacy is the “cornerstone” of student success.

I have spent the last twenty years either developing or advocating for literacy at the secondary level. From my perspective as a school leader, the Common Core State Standards represent our greatest opportunity to finally make school wide literacy a permanent part of the culture and fabric of secondary schools.

On one hand, these are the best of times for adolescent literacy. On the other hand, the timing could not be worse.

At a time when expectations for student achievement have been completely reset, finally placing all students on a pathway to college and career readiness, schools across the country are experiencing budget shortfalls and, in many cases, staff cuts. Larger class sizes, retirements of veteran teachers, coupled with an influx of less experienced teachers and new, drops in enrollment in teacher preparation programs, and less experienced school leaders all add up to lower instructional capacity at a time when we desperately need all the experience we can get. Doing more with less is not exactly a recipe for success. (more…)

Common Core: Delaying Sanctions is not Delaying Implementation

States like Florida and Louisiana are not delaying Common Core implementation; they are delaying using test scores to rate schools and to punish teachers and principals.

We know that students thrive in a school with a focused school wide literacy initiative–purposeful reading, writing, and discussion in every classroom and across all content areas. By my count only about 1% of all high schools have or are attempting such a program, which, just so happens to be a foundation of successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards. A lack of content-based literacy instruction is not due to a lack of desire on the part of schools, but to a lack of training and practice on the part of the teachers and school leaders. It takes years to build teacher capacity to integrate literacy effectively into their content areas. Keep in mind that literacy is but one of many school wide instructional shifts that the CCSS are bringing to schools.

Let’s be clear. States are proceeding with CCSS implementation but delaying levying accountability measures while schools are building teacher capacity.

In fairness, neither consortium will have a fully operational assessment system–pre-assessments, mid-year assessments, performance assessments, summative assessments, and timely feedback to schools–for at least two more years. Schools will receive no feedback from the field tests. How can we possible hold schools and teachers accountable for assessments when they have no way of receiving any feedback and no way to predict student success until after the summative assessments administered in May 2015?

It is almost like asking schools to hit a moving target while blindfolded. A fair system would allow for at least two years of testing and feedback under a fully operational assessment system before holding teachers, principals, and schools accountable.