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ADOLESCENT LITERACY INTERVENTION PROGRAMS: Chart and Program Review Guide Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs: Chart and Program Review Guide Cynthia Shanahan, Ed.D. University of Illinois at Chicago
ADOLESCENT LITERACY INTERVENTION PROGRAMS: Chart and Program Review Guide Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs: Chart and Program Review Guide Cynthia Shanahan, Ed.D. University of Illinois at Chicago 1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200 Naperville, IL Copyright 2005 Learning Point Associates, sponsored under government contract number ED-01-CO All rights reserved. This work was originally produced in whole or in part by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL ) with funds from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education, under contract number ED-01-CO The content does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of IES or the Department of Education, nor does mention or visual representation of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the federal government. NCREL remains one of the 10 regional educational laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Education and its work is conducted by Learning Point Associates. Learning Point Associates, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, and NCREL are trademarks or registered trademarks of Learning Point Associates. Contents Page Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs: Chart and Program Review Guide Why Is it Important to Develop Programs for Adolescents Who Struggle With Literacy?...1 What Is an Adolescent Literacy Intervention Program?...3 Adolescent Literacy Intervention Chart...4 Observations...5 How Does One Use the Chart?...6 Adolescent Literacy Intervention Program Review Guide...6 Elements of the Review Guide...6 Conclusion...9 References...10 Appendixes Appendix A. Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs Chart...12 Academy of Reading...13 Accelerated Reader (AR)...16 Amp Reading System...19 Be a Better Reader, 8th Edition...21 Caught Reading...23 Comprehension Upgrade...25 Corrective Reading (CR)...28 IndiVisual Reading...32 Jamestown Education...34 Language! Third Edition...38 Lindamood-Bell...42 Merit Software...45 Project CRISS Creating Independence Through Student-Owned Strategies...48 QuickReads Secondary...51 Read Reading in the Content Areas...56 Reading Is Fame...59 Rosetta Stone Literacy...62 Second Chance at Literacy Learning...65 SIM (Strategic Instruction Model)...69 Strategic Literacy Initiative...74 Supported Literacy Approach...77 Talent Development High Schools (TDHS) Literacy Program...79 Talent Development Middle Schools Literacy Program...83 Wilson Reading System...86 References...89 Appendix B. Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs Review Guide...93 Adolescent Literacy Intervention Program Review Guide...94 Definition...94 Scoring Sheet...96 In this paper, I describe characteristics of programs developed for adolescents who are struggling with literacy. The paper references both a chart I developed to compare and contrast those characteristics and a review guide I created to help schools make principled decisions when choosing programs for use with their students. Why Is it Important to Develop Programs for Adolescents Who Struggle With Literacy? It is increasingly clear that targeting beginning readers is not enough to ensure that students will have access to advanced education and will become economically successful citizens who fulfill their obligations for social and civic participation (Venezky, Kaestle, & Sum, 1987). According to the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 37 percent of fourth graders and 26 percent of eighth graders cannot read at the basic level, and 48 percent of fourth graders and 58 percent of eighth graders will fail to reach proficiency (Donahue, Daane, & Grigg, 2003). The 2002 NAEP data show similar results for 12th graders (Grigg, Daane, Jin, & Campbell, 2003). That is, when reading grade-level text, students reading below basic levels cannot understand the text at the literal level, cannot make obvious connections between the text and their own experiences, and cannot make simple inferences from the text. Writing skills are similarly weak. According to the 2002 NAEP writing assessment (available at nationsreportcard/writing/results2002/), 14 percent of fourth graders, 15 percent of eighth graders, and 26 percent of 12th graders cannot write at the basic level. NAEP data suggest that students who experience significant reading and writing difficulties tend to be students from lowincome families, particularly African-American and Latino students; only about 13 percent of African-American students reach proficiency at these grade levels, and Hispanics do only slightly better, at 15 percent (Donahue et al., 2003). Failure to successfully teach these students to read is a failure of our promise of democracy, given the role that literacy plays in civic participation and social and economic life. A number of national and state organizations in the United States, including the National Governor s Association, have identified reading proficiency as a minimum standard for success in today s labor market (Sum, Kirsch, & Taggart, 2002). Yet, findings from the International Adult Literacy Survey indicate that only half of the U.S. adult population ages years reach the level of proficiency (Kirsch et al., 2000). For more than a decade, federal and state governments, private agencies, and universities have taken many important steps to improve reading achievement in the preschool and primary grades. These initiatives have focused on several points, including the following: The use of research for making instructional decisions (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Early intervention programs such as Reading Recovery (Shanahan & Barr, 1995). Increased funding of preschool and primary grade reading programs such as Reading First and Early Reading First. Enhanced Head Start literacy curricula. Attention to family literacy (in particular by the National Center for Family Literacy). Learning Point Associates Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs 1 A plethora of statewide initiatives to teach all students to read by Grade 3. Increased certification requirements in literacy for elementary teachers. Although NAEP results during the past five years are somewhat promising with regard to improvements in Grade 4 performance, literacy levels have not improved significantly beyond Grade 4. To address the problem, the U.S. Department of Education s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has made the development and implementation of instruction and intervention programs in literacy for adolescents a research funding priority. IES has drawn in part on the recommendations of the Rand Report concerning research in reading comprehension for struggling adolescents (IES, n.d.). MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization, is funding studies of adolescent literacy interventions as well, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the American Institute for Research. MDRC s Adolescent Literacy Evaluation project entails a rigorous random assignment test of promising catch-up literacy programs aimed at students who enter the ninth grade reading two to four years behind grade level (MDRC, n.d.). Organizations such as the International Reading Association, the National Reading Conference, and the Alliance for Excellent Education have called for increased funding and visibility for adolescent literacy (Alvermann, 2001; Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). The Carnegie Corporation of New York recently launched an initiative titled Advancing Literacy to support the extension of early-grade literacy improvements into high school and has supported the Rand Corporation report on the adolescent literacy problem. In addition, President Bush budgeted $200 million in his federal budget proposal for his Striving Readers initiative, which focuses on improving the reading skills of high school students who read below grade level. All of these various efforts signal not only a growing concern about reading and writing in the upper grades but also an increasing will to act on that concern. For that reason, I can safely assume that authors and publishers are already in the process of contributing to what appears to be a burgeoning array of adolescent literacy intervention programs. In the latter part of the 20th century, few such programs were in existence. At present, there are more than 30, and each of the major publishers is in the development phase of even more. The number and range of programs existing or about to appear on the market can make it difficult for a district or a school to choose one that is appropriate for its particular context and needs. Hence, in this paper, I describe a project that is intended to provide assistance for those who are serious about improving the reading achievement of their struggling/striving adolescent readers and writers. Learning Point Associates Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs 2 What Is an Adolescent Literacy Intervention Program? Before proceeding with the development of a comparison/contrast chart of the various programs, I needed to be clear about what kind of program constitutes a literacy intervention. In reading about the various initiatives, I realized that intervention meant different things to different constituencies. For example, some agencies adopt a research meaning of the term. To them, a literacy intervention is a program used in place of traditional literacy instruction, and it is not necessary that the target population of such a program be struggling. For instance, if a program was developed for use in regular elementary classrooms and an agency wanted to study its extension into regular middle school classrooms, it would call the new program the intervention and traditional instruction the control. Because the focus of most initiatives, however, is on those students who are behind in reading, I chose to limit the programs I placed on the chart to those designed or adapted specifically for struggling readers and intended to catch them up. I also needed to be clear about the meaning of the term adolescent. Because programs serve grade levels more often than ages, I looked at programs targeted for particular grade levels. Although 12th grade seemed a common upper limit, the lower limit was somewhat confusing. The reason for the confusion, I think, is that there are a couple of different models for schools serving young adolescents, depending on whether adolescents attend a middle school or stay in elementary school until they transfer to high school. Some elementary schools extend to Grades 8 or 9 and become departmentalized at either Grade 5 or 6; and some schools serve middle grade students only beginning with Grade 4 or 5. Thus, adolescent programs can be aimed at students as early as fourth grade. This lower level also was in line with the definition of adolescent offered in much of the writing about adolescent literacy (e.g., Kamil, n.d.), and is consistent with Reading First legislation, which targets students in Grades K 3 and does not extend to Grade 4. My criterion was that the program had to be one that extended beyond Grade 4. That is, I didn t look at programs limited to serving elementary students in Grades K 4; I looked only at programs that serve students at least through all of the middle school grades. I did not look at programs aimed at students in postsecondary levels. Finally, I needed a clear definition of program. Some programs, even though their intent is to raise the literacy achievement of struggling adolescents, focus on the professional development of teachers rather than the literacy instruction of students. I decided to include these programs as well as those focused on students. In addition, some programs might be considered core intended to be the central reading program students experience whereas others might be considered supplemental intended to be used in conjunction with a core program. A core program must, by its nature, teach a comprehensive combination of literacy elements, whereas a supplemental program might teach only one element or focus on a narrower combination of reading elements. Reading First legislation (targeting Grades K 3) requires funded schools to choose a core program, analyze the program for areas of weakness, and choose supplements that address those weaknesses; at the same time, schools are cautioned not to use several programs that all address the same elements. Those guidelines made sense to me, so I included both core and supplemental programs in my chart. Learning Point Associates Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs 3 Based upon these considerations and after studying a number of adolescent literacy programs, I developed the following definition: Adolescent literacy intervention programs are those programs that (1) specifically target teachers of and/or students in middle and high school grades (Grades 4 12) who are reading significantly below grade level and (2) provide literacy instruction that is intended to increase achievement at a rate faster than average, allowing students to decrease or close the achievement gap between themselves and their normally achieving peers. Programs may be intended as core or supplemental for an entire class, an individual, or a small group and may include laboratory or computer-based instruction (or any combination of the various kinds of instruction). The instruction may be in reading or content-based venues. However, the intention of the program must be to help students who are struggling with literacy, and the focus of the program must be on at least one aspect of literacy instruction. Adolescent Literacy Intervention Chart This section describes the chart of adolescent literacy programs that accompanies this document. I discuss the way in which I created the chart, my thoughts about the data on it, and how to use it. Before constructing the chart, I read reviews of programs in existence (e.g., Alvermann & Rush, 2004), reviewed presentations about literacy programs (e.g., National Institute for Literacy [NIFL], n.d.), read policy statements regarding adolescent literacy (e.g., Moore et al., 1999; Alvermann, 2001), and reviewed other reports about adolescent literacy (e.g., Kamil, n.d.). I used the ideas in these documents and the guidance of Learning Point Associates, which sponsored the project, to develop the categories for the chart. A graduate assistant and I then searched the Web, the various documents above, and publishers materials for existing programs. We wrote to program authors for materials and downloaded materials when available. I also visited publishers booths at national conferences (such as the annual conference of the International Reading Association) and talked with the sales staff about their programs. Once I received information about the program and samples of program materials, I determined whether it met the criteria for an adolescent literacy intervention. Although the chart is fairly comprehensive, I cannot guarantee that all of the programs fitting the criteria are represented on this chart. It was a matter of judgment whether the criteria were met. However, the chart can be extended as programs become available or more information about them is acquired. Also, at times the information belonging in one of the fields was simply not available, and I indicated that the information was unknown. Each identified program has a chart (See Appendix A) showing the following: publisher/author, foci/goals, targeted population, theoretical premise and embedded assumptions, main components, required training to implement, program length, date created or published, assessment components, research basis, and effectiveness data. Learning Point Associates Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs 4 Observations After constructing the chart, I reviewed it for insights. One aspect of the chart information that struck me was the lack of research that rigorously addresses program effectiveness. The What Works Clearinghouse, created in 2002 by the Institute of Education Sciences (, recommends evidence standards for effectiveness research. It says that to have confidence in the results of a research study about effectiveness, an experimental (or at least a quasi-experimental) study comparing the program in question with both other programs and a control is necessary. It makes sense that if your aim is to increase literacy achievement, you want a program that will work better than the one you are already using. The best way to measure this is to engage in a study that compares the two programs under similar conditions so results are not biased. Rarely does this level of evidence exist. More often, a program will report data showing a larger achievement increase after implementation than prior to implementation. Or perhaps students in the program will be compared to students who are not in the program; but students not in the program are not part of any study so there is no control for the similarity of conditions. Often, however, these programs simply have not been evaluated either because the program is new or because it has been around for some time and has enjoyed popularity without the benefit of research evidence, such as in the case of Nila Banton Smith s Be A Better Reader series. Authors and publishers often will cite evidence that individual components used in the program have been shown to be effective elsewhere. For example, they may cite the National Reading Panel s finding that strategy instruction is effective. Alternately, they will argue that the premises underlying the program are theoretically sound. Such evidence is useful and makes sense for programs that are new as long as more rigorous research evidence is being gathered or research is in the planning stage. Another insight gained from reviewing the chart is that many of the earlier programs targeting struggling readers are supplemental in nature, with the exception of those originally developed for special education students (e.g., Wilson Reading Systems). These programs target particular narrow areas of literacy. However, there are several newer programs being implemented widely that are considered core programs. These are designed to be used in place of the traditional core reading program (e.g., The Amp Reading program, published by Pearson Learning Group), or they call for structural changes in the school program (such as the Talent Development High School model or CRISS). These newer, comprehensive programs also are more likely to rely on research evidence or to be planning rigorously controlled studies of program efficacy. Also, some of the newer, comprehensive programs have elaborate professional development components. Most new programs and revisions of older ones have Internet or other computerized options for professional development, student instruction, assessment, and/or management. In addition, they make notable efforts to use materials that are current and, presumably, engaging to adolescents. However, rarely do programs focus on teaching students to negotiate multiliteracies, as suggested by adolescent literacy experts such as Alvermann and Rush (2004). Learning Point Associates Adolescent Literacy Intervention Programs 5 How Does One Use the Chart? I suggest that before administrators and teachers think about purchasing a program for use with struggling readers, they first engage in an assessment of their needs. This assessment would include a review of current instructional materials, programs, and practices, to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the existing approach, level of professional expertise, commitment to improving reading achievement, budget, contextual and structural elements that inhibit student performance, and so on. Does the school merely need a change in materials, or are problems more
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