Academic journal article High School Journal

Supplementary Reading Instruction in Alternative High Schools: A Statewide Survey of Educator Reported Practices and Barriers

Academic journal article High School Journal

Supplementary Reading Instruction in Alternative High Schools: A Statewide Survey of Educator Reported Practices and Barriers

Article excerpt

Recent data suggest that a majority of secondary students read below the level considered proficient on state standardized tests of reading. Alternative high schools, in particular, serve a high proportion of struggling readers. This survey study investigated reading instruction provided to struggling readers in alternative schools in one state by determining: (a) the types of supplemental reading instruction provided, (b) the methods of referral, and (c) educator-perceived barriers to providing that instruction. Findings indicate that most alternative schools offer supplemental reading instruction and that standardized assessments are the primary method of referral. Lack of staff and instructional resources, poor student behavior and motivation, and insufficient time were all identified as barriers to providing instruction. Implications for research and practice are also identified.

Keywords: alternative education, reading programs, remedial reading, reading teachers


Reading is widely considered a gateway skill by which individuals access educational opportunities, employment, and social independence (National Reading Panel, 2000). Yet, recent reading achievement data indicate an intractable problem: approximately 68% of eighth grade students and 62% of twelfth grade students score below levels considered "proficient" on statewide standardized assessments (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2011, 2013). These data signify that a large proportion of adolescents may not be equipped with the literacy tools widely considered necessary for healthy and productive adult outcomes. In response to these alarming statistics, educators and researchers have paid increasing attention to the needs of adolescents who are underperforming in reading. Federal initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for struggling adolescent readers (e.g., Striving Readers) have resulted in numerous reports (e.g., Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; Torgesen et al., 2007). These reports draw attention to the need for teachers in secondary settings to provide reading instruction that is tailored specifically to the needs of adolescent readers still struggling to master basic reading skills.

At the same time, secondary students at risk for school failure--due to poor academic performance generally, problematic behavior, chronic truancy, or involvement with juvenile corrections--are frequently assigned by local education agencies (LEAs) to alternative schools and programs (Lehr, Tan, & Ysseldyke, 2009). Over 10,000 such schools and programs exist, with 64% of LEAs nationwide reporting that they administer at least one alternative school or program, or that they contract with another agency to do so (Carver & Lewis, 2010). Lehr and colleagues (2009) analyzed data from 18 states and reported that over one million students were enrolled in alternative programs in those states alone.

Students who attend alternative schools have educational achievement profiles that are compromised compared to their peers in traditional schools. Investigation into the performance gap between students in traditional and nontraditional settings in a large U.S. city revealed that students in alternative schools and programs perform significantly lower than their counterparts on statewide assessments in reading (Chiang & Gill, 2010). This underscores the importance of focusing on reading as a core instructional area in alternative schools. In order to improve outcomes, it is important first to better understand the reading instruction currently provided to struggling readers in alternative schools. Because high rates of struggling learners attend remediation-focused alternative schools and there is an urgent need for increasing students' literacy skills in order to improve their adult outcomes, this research examines the supplementary reading instructional practices employed by school personnel in alternative settings. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.