Combating the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy: Exploring Literacy in the Secondary Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although literacy has become a multi-faceted aspect of education essential to students' future success, studies have found that many secondary students lack basic literacy skills. In the past, much of the blame for adolescents' literacy problems has been placed on elementary teachers, but recent research suggests that secondary teachers must share in the responsibility for teaching literacy This paper explores the various characteristics and modalities of literacy and reviews current literature in the field including the Common Core State Standards initiative. Most importantly, this paper provides suggestions for integrating literacy learning in the general curriculum at the secondary level with particular attention to content area literacy and technology integration.

Keywords: literacy, reading, technology, integration, curriculum, Common Core State Standard

Literacy has become an increasingly important research topic as the components of literacy have become increasingly complex. The term literacy no longer refers simply to the ability to read. Rather, literacy has taken on intricate characteristics with major consequences for the success of today's students (Carroll, 201 1). Multiple modes of literacy have been found to be essential for students' future endeavors (CCSSO, 201 0; Ritter, 2009) including fluency, the comprehension and analysis of complex texts, and effective social and electronic communication.

Although much research exists on the topic of literacy, the wide scope of the field may confuse or intimidate teachers who serve areas that are not directly related to reading and language. The typical math or science teacher, for example, may lack the support and training necessary to fully implement the teaching of literacy. Additionally, because literacy research has tended to focus on the elementary levels, secondary teachers may struggle to find effective and efficient means of integrating literacy learning in the general curriculum. In this article, we will summarize information about the forms of literacy and its importance. Then we will provide suggestions for implementing literacy learning in secondary classrooms by focusing on content area literacy and technology integration as ways to meet the growing crisis in adolescent literacy.

The Literacy Gap

Much recent research has focused on early identification and intervention for students with learning disabilities in the elementary grades (Wexler, Vaughn, & Roberts, 2010). Early intervention strategies have been shown to assist students with learning disabilities in the areas of reading and literacy (Espin, Wallace, Lembke, Campbell, & Long, 201 0), but recent studies have shown that many students, especially those with learning disabilities, have remained below the threshold of basic literacy skills. Despite multiple initiatives to improve reading and literacy, the 201 1 Nation's Report Card for Reading reported no significant improvements in average reading scores from 2009 to 201 1 for grade 4 (IES, 201 1 ). The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (IES & NCES, 2007), moreover, reported that 64 percent of 4th grade students with disabilities in public schools scored below a Basic Level, a level that implies only partial proficiency, compared to only 31 percent of students without disabilities. These numbers are daunting, especially in the face of mandates such as those in No Child Left Behind(NCLB) that require all students to achieve basic mastery of subject content.

Progress is expected to take time; unfortunately time is in short supply for students who will soon be required to critically engage in literacy both inside and outside of the classroom. Literacy is crucial even for younger adolescents, who seemingly have time to grow and improve. Concerted efforts are needed to ensure that adolescents receive a strong set of literacy skills on which to build throughout their educational careers. …