Education Letter to the Editor

Researcher Offers Context on Literacy Pilot

April 05, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

Your article “Teachers Seek Ways to Gauge Rigor of Texts” (March 16, 2011) described an important but truncated account of the “Literacy Pilot” at International Community High School, or ICHS. By providing more complexity to the “text” of what is happening, I hope to describe the settings that are necessary for a meaningful shift in instruction, like the one taking place at ICHS, to occur.

In my role as a researcher and coach at ICHS over the past four years, I am one of a group of colleagues who have been engaged in deepening literacy practices at the school. We have worked together to put the following structures in place:

1. All English classrooms have independent-reading libraries, and students have structured time to select and read multiple forms of text, in a variety of languages, each day of the week.

2. Because students are at varying levels of learning English, explicit attention to academic-language development is embedded in teaching content. In other words, there is a great deal of deliberate word study linked to the analysis and production of ideas.

3. Teachers participate in school-based literacy workshops and team meetings to study, implement, and analyze the effects of a common set of literacy strategies.

4. Simultaneously, over the past two years, teachers have identified “ways with words,” as author Shirley Brice Heath would say, that are inherent in each discipline and have developed protocols, such as the one described in conjunction with reading science journal articles, that are indicative of literacy practices within disciplines.

5. Finally, Principal Berena Carbacas consistently prioritizes literacy instruction and creates spaces in which these endeavors can flourish.

Julia Emig

Director of Secondary Literacy

Master of Arts in Teaching Program

Bard College

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the April 06, 2011 edition of Education Week as Researcher Offers Context on Literacy Pilot