Want to improve literacy in your school? Here’s how

Prompted by disappointing test scores, Chemawa Middle School hyper-focused its teaching practices on the four domains of reading, writing, speaking, and listening

Last year, Chemawa Middle School faced a huge literacy need. We are a Title I school in Riverside, Calif., and state assessment data showed that 62 percent of our 907 students did not meet grade-level standards. The NWEA MAP assessments indicated severe readability issues: 19 percent of students scored at a Kindergarten or first-grade Lexile level. The data was overwhelming, as it revealed that many students read at least two or more grade levels beneath grade-level benchmarks.

After analyzing that data, we were determined to personalize reading and writing to meet the needs of our student population, 68 percent of whom are Hispanic and 12 percent of whom are English language learners (ELLs).

Our ultimate goal is to have students produce coherent and substantial argumentative writing, but to achieve this goal we needed to meet students at their reading level before attempting to close the achievement gap. To make our literacy plan coherent across the campus, we established a close-reading protocol and crafted goals for English language arts (ELA), history, and science to explicitly teach writing structure. This school-wide initiative has been beneficial for non-ELA teachers as we embark upon the journey to increase literacy overall.

To improve the quality and clarity of student thinking, we hyper-focused pedagogical practices on the four domains of reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

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