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Raising Reading Levels: Lessons from a high-poverty high school

Raising Reading Levels: Lessons from a high-poverty high school



This is a revised powerpoint to clarify the information we presented at Taking Charge of Change, the national conference organized by The Education Trust in Arlington, VA, Nov 4-6, 2010. It shows how ...

This is a revised powerpoint to clarify the information we presented at Taking Charge of Change, the national conference organized by The Education Trust in Arlington, VA, Nov 4-6, 2010. It shows how we turned around struggling readers at Granger High School from 1999-2008.



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    Raising Reading Levels: Lessons from a high-poverty high school Raising Reading Levels: Lessons from a high-poverty high school Presentation Transcript

    • Presentation atTaking Charge of Change Effective Practices to Close Gaps and Raise Achievement The Education Trust National Conference November 4-6, 2010 Arlington, VA
    • Raising Reading Levels:lessons from a high-poverty high school Presented by William S Roulston & Ricardo LeBlanc-Esparza
    • We were a struggling high school Ricardo did his first evaluation of an English teacher in a freshman class. She was passionate, prepared and she cared. Her students were not and did not. 18 of 21 students were failing the class. “How can I teach them Romeo and Juliet?” she asked. “They can’t read.”
    • Look at the skill level of her students:When her freshmen had taken our statewide WASL test just a year and a halfearlier in April of their 7th grade year, these were their skill levels. Was it anywonder why this teacher was frustrated? Why our students were frustrated?
    • A high school depends on elementary and middle schools Academic History of Our Students: Reading 100.0 % Met Standard on WASL 90.0 80.0 70.0 60.0 Reading 4th Grade 50.0 40.0 3 7 .8 Reading 7th Grade 2 9 .8 3 1.9 30.0 2 1.4 2 1.2 17 .9 2 0 .4 20.0 11.5 15 .6 11.1 10 .0 10 .8 10.0 2 .2 0 .0 8 .1 0 .0 0.0 05 03 04 06 07 08 09 10 0 0 20 20 20 20 20 20 *2 *2 Graduating Class * 4th grade testing began with class of 2005 We had a single elementary & middle school that fed our high school. Until Ricardo’s 8th year, they never sent us a class with more than 30% proficiency in reading. Our students were often 4 to 5 years or more behind.
    • The writing skills of our incoming students were also low. Academic History of Our Students: Writing 100 % Met Standard on WASL 90 80 70 60 Writing 4th Grade 50 40 Writing 7th Grade 3 1.3 30 2 2 .2 2 7 .6 18 .6 19 .8 20 14 .5 17 .2 12 .2 9 .7 10 2 .2 7 .0 2 .8 4 .6 6 .4 0 .0 0 .0 0 03 04 07 08 09 10 05 06 0 0 20 20 20 20 20 20 *2 *2 Graduating Class * 4th grade testing began with class of 2005 One thing is clear by our scores: we had a lot of work to do to try to help our students gain the literacy skills they needed. Blaming the schools that sent them to us would not get the job done.
    • We began to implement strategic interventions based on core beliefs We had from September of our students’ freshman year until April or March of their sophomore year to prepare them for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. We implemented: – A locally developed reading intervention – An emphasis on reading practice – Strategies for reading and writing across the curriculum
    • Here are our results in reading Turnaround School Performance on Washington Assessment of Student Learning: Reading Scores 100Percent Meeting Standard 77 77 80 69 61 60 4th Grade 47 7th Grade 38 38 40 34 32 30 10th Grade 20 21 21 18 20 20 12 16 11 10 11 8 2 0 *2003 *2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 A comparison of reading scores between graduating classes from 2003-2010
    • Here’s how we compared to the State of Washington in reading Granger High School Reading Scores Compared to Washington State Average Percent meeting WASL standard 100.00% 80.00% 60.00% GHS 40.00% State 20.00% 0.00% 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008Our demographics were 90% free and reduced lunch and 90% students ofcolor: we were the poster child for the Achievement Gap. But we effectivelyclosed the gap between our students and the state average.
    • Our results in writing 4th, 7th & 10th Grade Writing Scores 100.0 90.0Percent meeting standard 80.0 67 66 67 70.0 60.0 52 51 50.0 37 40.0 31 28 30.0 24 22 20.0 15 19 17 20 4th Grade 11 12 7 10 5 6 7th Grade 10.0 2 3 0.0 10th Grade *2003 *2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 A comparison of Writing scores between graduating classes 2003-2010 But one other important factor needs to be considered in our improvement scores…
    • Our students kept improving! Beginning with the class of 2008, our state required that students pass the reading and writing proficiency tests in order to receive a diploma. Students who failed the test as sophomores were encouraged to keep working and try again. We kept working with the students to help them improve their skills. Students had up to 5 more opportunities to retake the test during their junior and senior years.
    • And the results? Percentage of Class of 2008 meeting state standards at the 4th, 7th, 10th & 12th grades. 100 89* 87* 4th Grade (2000)Percent Meeting 80 69 67 7th Grade (2003) Standard 10th Grade (2006) 60 12th Grade (2008) 40 30 21 20 6 17 0 Reading Writing *this is the total percentage of students in the class w ho met the proficiency standards by passing the WASL in 2006, 2007 or 2008 and w ere thus eligible for a high school diplom a if they had also m et credit requirements
    • In other words… When they were 4th graders, only 30 % of our students could meet 4th grade reading standards and only 6% were on-level in writing. As 7th graders, only 21% of them could meet 7th grade reading standards and only 17% were on- level in writing. By the time they graduated, nearly 90% of our students met 10th grade standards in reading & writing. Our graduation rate had also improved from roughly 38% to a five-year average of 90%.
    • How did we do it? We followed a 3-pronged approach to turn around our students Make reading easier Change negative beliefs/attitudes Intervention Develop broad Teach strategies to unlock difficult vocabulary, knowledge text & language Read-a-Lot Info-Text Develop specific vocabulary, knowledge & languageCreate lifelong learners
    • Our strategies and the decisions wemade were based on core beliefs abouthow to best teach reading to struggling high school students.
    • Core Beliefs about Struggling High School Readers Affective is as important as cognitive – Discouraged learners have negative beliefs, attitudes and habits that affect their ability to improve their reading and writing and we have to take that into account when working with them. People avoid doing what they are not good at – Thus our students have avoidance behaviors towards reading that must be overcome. You get good at whatever you do a lot – If you don’t spend a lot of time reading, you won’t get good at it, which is hard to do if you don’t like it.
    • Core beliefs for literacy turnaround (cont) We have to use strategies that look different than what students have seen before – Students become inoculated against instruction that hasn’t worked in the past, if not cognitively, then certainly psychologically. Reading has to be real – Good readers choose to read for two reasons: pleasure or power (knowledge). Struggling readers haven’t experienced that, so we need to give them a big dose consistently.
    • Core beliefs for literacy turnaround (cont) To improve reading skill you have to improve language skill – Poor readers have typically read less and have been exposed less to the elegant language and specific vocabulary of higher level books than good readers have. It’s not enough to provide word-recognition assistance or comprehension strategies. We must recognize the impoverished language and need for vocabulary building (background knowledge) of our poor readers. Reading is best taught by humans – Language skill is developed through interaction and modeling. Computers are far less enriching than human conversations. Computers are good for discrete tasks, not connected, free-flowing, responsive-to- the-moment talk. Real change needs real results, not hope and pretty words. – Discouraged kids need to see fast results. Consistently. Then they will believe they can do this hard job that only they can do. (PS teachers need to see results, too!)
    • Prong 1: Our primary intervention Second Shot Reading Locally-developed model Small group instruction Centered around – fluency timing – modeled reading – discussion – repeated readings – summary writing – individual help
    • Second Shot (cont) Groups led by teacher or paraeducators Held in English 1 and 2 classes Activity: Demonstration of Second Shot
    • English Curriculum We decided to attack the reading problem first through our English courses – English 1: 9th and 10th graders reading below 5th grade level – English 2: 9th and 10th graders reading between 5th and 8th grade level – English 3: above grade level. Students were expected to improve 2 reading levels in one year’s time. We moved them to next class as soon as they had improved their skills.
    • An incredible program, but…  As one large research study of the effectiveness of reading programs put it: “…multiple studies conducted by multiple researchers across the nation provided no clear evidence of the superiority of any one reading series or any particular approach to teaching reading.” -Bond & Dykstra (1967) “In other words, nothing worked everywhere and everything worked somewhere.” -Dr. Richard Allington (2002), commenting on Bond & Dykstra’s resultsBond, G.L. & Dykstra, R. (1967). The cooperative research program in first-grade reading instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 2(4), 5-142.Allington, R.L. (2002). Troubling times: a short historical perspective. Big Brother and the National Reading Curriculum: how ideology trumpedevidence. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. p. 16
    • Do programs teach reading? “If the concentrated effort of highly competent and well-funded sponsors with a few sites cannot produce uniform results from locality to locality, it seems doubtful that any model program could.” House, Glass, McLean & Walker (1978) “…one consistent finding in educational research: Programs don’t teach, teachers do.” -Allington (2002) commenting on House, Glass McLean & Walker As good as we think Second Shot Reading is, we don’t think of it as a magic program.House, E.R., Glass, G.V., McLean, L. & Walker, D. (1978). No simple answers: critique of the Follow Through evaluations. Harvard Educational Review,48. 128-160.
    • The real magic of Second Shot:Our position is that Second Shot Reading provided the structure for our teachers and paraeducators to help students experience immediate success. Then, it kept students engaged in real reading while our instructors gained more expertise in helping individual students overcome the obstacles that hindered them from becoming excellent readers. The better we became at teaching reading, the better our students became.
    • Prong 2: Read-a-lot We used Sustained Silent Reading in advisory classes to get our students reading more. We used Accelerated Reader in English 1 & 2 classes to encourage reading. We made clear to students that reading intervention was not enough. They had to read a lot if they wanted to improve. We beefed up the library budget through special levies and built up classroom libraries, too.
    • Prong 3: Info-Text We used our once-weekly staff development time to explore content area reading strategies and practiced implementing them in our classrooms. We used books and Will’s expertise rather than bring in outside consultants. Later, we worked on writing across the curriculum in the same way. (Reading & writing are intimately connected!)
    • Our secret weapon: the principal Ricardo knew all students’ reading levels and talked to them about what they were reading and how they were improving… even at lunch! He did informal fluency test with new students and families when they first enrolled & talked to them about the importance of reading. He set up challenges to read more and did things like climb a 14,000 foot mountain when the school read 14,000 books.
    • Final Points Our literacy turnaround was part of a comprehensive turnaround (detailed in our upcoming Solution Tree Press book). It’s hard for us to isolate which elements made the difference. In our view, everything was necessary. It was synergistic.
    • Final Points (cont) We’re “still crazy learning after all these years.” Keep updated and share in our learning at www.turnaroundschoolbook.ning.com
    • Despite the title of this presentation…Raising reading scores is not as important as raising readers. –Will RoulstonIf we teach reading skills, but don’t teach students to love reading, it doesn’t really matter if they pass state tests. What matters is that they become self-sustaining learners who use reading for their own pleasure and power. We must never forget this.
    • Contact Will Roulston willroulston@gmail.com Will is a literacy & language acquisition specialist who helped set up the literacy program at Granger High School and then joined the staff for several years as a lead-teacher. Ricardo LeBlanc-Esparza leblanc-esparza@gmail.com Ricardo is an administrator who led the turnaround at Granger High School from 1999-2008. He is currently a principal at a turnaround elementary school in Denver, CO & completing his doctorate. He and Will are co- authors of an upcoming book (Solution Tree Press, 2011) on how the turnaround at Granger was accomplished.