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High School Literacy. Terry Salinger Managing Director and Chief Scientist for Reading Research, American Institutes for Research. What Defines Adolescent Literacy?. State and local content area standards: what students should know and be able to do Cut scores on state tests

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High school literacy l.jpg

High School Literacy

Terry Salinger

Managing Director and Chief Scientist for Reading Research,American Institutes for Research


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What Defines Adolescent Literacy?

  • State and local content area standards: what students should know and be able to do

  • Cut scores on state tests

  • Reading as defined by NAEP achievement levels

    • Sets a high bar for proficiency

  • Reading and writing requirements imposed by the tasks assigned to high school students

    • Academic literacy


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National High School Center Definition of High School Literacy

High School Literacy includes all the elements of

literacy—reading, writing, listening, speaking, critical

thinking, use of technology, and habits of mind that

foster postsecondary success—that are expected of

entering freshmen across all college disciplines as well

as those entering the workforce.  These competencies

should be learned in the content areas and should be

valued and reinforced in all related instructional

areas throughout students' high school experiences.


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What Is Known About Adolescent Literacy?

  • Many students, even those who pass state tests, are weak readers

  • Some high school students have serious and often debilitating deficits in their basic literacy skills

  • Too many students graduate from high school poorly prepared for college or work

    • Complaints from employers about high school graduates’ poor skills

    • Need for remedial courses as students enter higher education


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Why Do Problems Exist?

Students’ Perspective:

  • Insufficient mastery of skills needed for independent reading: decoding, vocabulary, and/or insufficient background knowledge

  • Weak comprehension skills, especially those needed for different texts and tasks

  • Decreased motivation and self-efficacy

    • Lack of successful experiences gaining information or enjoyment from reading


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Why Do Problems Exist?

Teachers’ Perspective:

  • Unrealistic or inaccurate expectations for students’ literacy skills

  • Limited understanding of real literacy demands of assigned reading and writing tasks

  • Lack of appropriate skills to differentiate presentation of content to students with differing proficiency levels

  • Commitment to content instruction and/or “covering the content”


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Why Do Problems Exist?

Systemic Perspective:

  • Inadequate PD to give teachers skills to meet demands of students with differing proficiency

  • Little or no real diagnostic testing to identify struggling readers and target interventions effectively

  • Limited resources for addressing deficits

  • Lack of “will” and understanding for addressing students’ literacy deficits


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Suggested Solutions

  • Reading instruction in the content areas

    • Not a popular idea among content area teachers

  • Literacy coaches in the middle and high schools

    • Not supported by empirical research

  • Intervention programs for struggling readers

    • Need to be targeted to students’ needs

    • Expensive in terms of training, materials, etc.

    • Research suggests only marginal improvement