Carnegie Corporation
September 2009

This lengthy report compiles much research on adolescent literacy and associated best practices. Though none of the information is new, this is a handy reference guide with five chapters: the latest research on adolescent literacy; the needs of teen-age readers and how these can be met in schools; how teacher professional development can be structured to meet these needs; what needs to happen at the school, district, state, and federal levels to support adolescent readers; and action steps for leaders and policymakers at all levels. The biggest misconception the authors seek to dispel is that literacy gains made by young children in the early grades “inoculate” them against future reading deficits. Instead, argue the authors, “adolescent literacy is a shifting landscape where the heights get higher, the inclines steeper, and the terrain rockier.” This is so for a host of reasons, including such factors as texts getting longer and words becoming more complex as students age. What to do? The report offers a plethora of suggestions, from extending what we learned from the Reading First project into the middle school years, particularly as it concerns data-driven instruction and quality professional development for teachers, to encouraging school leaders to ensure that all content-area classes have a strong literacy focus. But action steps for federal policymakers are less promising: Throw scads of money at the problem, by, for example, increasing Title I support for middle and high schools. It’s far from clear that these costly solutions would ease the literacy woes at the middle and high school levels, though one recommendation might: Develop world-class common standards in English language arts that could lead to the creation of high quality assessments for secondary school students. Stay tuned. You can find the report here.

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