Improving Literacy from a Different Angle: Career and Technical Education Leaders Have Made Reading and Writing Skills a Top Priority

By Hyslop, Alisha | District Administration, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Improving Literacy from a Different Angle: Career and Technical Education Leaders Have Made Reading and Writing Skills a Top Priority


Hyslop, Alisha, District Administration


AT ITS MOST FUNDAMENTAL level, literacy represents the ability to read, write and communicate. Unfortunately, too many adolescents lack the literacy skills necessary to navigate the reading and writing requirements of high school and the future world in which they will work and live.

One of the ironic facts about adolescent literacy is that the reading levels of U.S. adolescents have actually declined during the past two decades, despite the fact that more students are taking higherlevel courses. Explicit literacy efforts must be targeted at high school students, but just giving students "more of the same" isn't likely to have the dramatic impact that is needed.

Almost every school district in the country has some type of literacy initiative in place, but all too often an incredible resource is overlooked. Career and technical education leaders have recognized the literacy challenge and have made improving their students' reading and writing skills a top priority. Today's CTE programs, offered in middle schools, comprehensive high schools, magnet or career-themed schools, and area technical centers, are both academically and technically demanding. Students must be able to read, comprehend, analyze and report on high-level information in order to be successful not only in their education program but in their future careers.

Engaging Literacy Content

Research has shown that one of the best ways to help students gain literacy skills is to motivate and engage them with content related to their interests, which can engage reluctant readers and, at the same time, improve literacy skills. Approximately 97 percent of all high school students take a CTE course at some point that exposes them to this essential relevancy. Students typically find their CTE courses to be directly connected to their future goals and are often more willing to engage in reading and writing within these courses. Job-specific vocabulary and authentic work situations can inspire students to apply themselves to literacy tasks that lack meaning in other contexts.

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Contrary to what you may have heard, reading and writing opportunities can be found throughout CTE courses, and many CTE teachers are implementing rigorous content-area reading strategies. …

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