RELATIONSHIPS MATTER: The Impact of Collegial Collaboration on Adolescent Literacy

By Diaz, Anabelle; Visone, Jeremy | Techniques, February 2018 | Go to article overview

RELATIONSHIPS MATTER: The Impact of Collegial Collaboration on Adolescent Literacy


Diaz, Anabelle, Visone, Jeremy, Techniques


In the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS), a district serving almost 11,000 students in 16 high schools (grades nine through 12), adolescent literacy has been a major focus ("District profile," 2010). Across the nation, only 37 percent of 12th-grade students achieved proficiency or higher on the 2013 reading section of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP, n.d.). Many school districts, including CTHSS, have turned to literacy intervention programs to address the adolescent literacy crisis. Where students are expected to meet the same academic standards for college and career readiness, CTHSS faces particular challenges in raising literacy levels because student time is split between academic and career and technical education (CTE). Students in a typical comprehensive high school have a minimum of 180 days contact with the same academic instructors. In a career and technical high school, students spend half their academic year, 90 days, with academic instructors and the other half of the year with CTE instructors. This commitment to dual programming halves the academic learning time available for CTHSS courses in core subjects like mathematics and English.

The Connecticut Core Standards (CCS), adopted in 2014, align with the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative ("Connecticut core standards," n.d.), which established academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia endorsed the CCSS, requiring changes to their previous standards and assessment systems (Conley, 2014). These standards were intended to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, master the knowledge and skills required for college, career and lifelong learning.

CTHSS faces significant challenges in meeting CCS due to their dual commitment to academic and CTE programming. In an attempt to overcome these challenges, CTHSS implemented a literacy lab initiative that required students to receive consistent literacy instruction throughout the school year. In addition, a literacy intervention program was designed to render literacy instruction more continuous, pervasive and, therefore, effective. The literacy growth pilot program applied theory and research to an intervention that met the needs of a targeted population of struggling adolescent readers, and was delivered by both academic and CTE instructors. The evaluation of program success employed a case study research design at one urban technical high school during the 2014-15 school year, the goal of which was to gain an in-depth understanding of its impact within a real-world context. The academic and CTE instructors delivered targeted intervention strategies for 180 days to 76 students reading at a filth-grade level or below.

Importance of Literacy in CTE Classrooms

One of the fundamental principles of the CCSS is the shared responsibility for teaching literacy across all content areas (Blosveren, Liben, & DeWitt, 2014). Literacy is no longer solely the responsibility of English teachers. All content area teachers have a role to support literacy skills. Blosveren et al. (2014) supported the shift to integrate CCSS in CTE classrooms to help students succeed with real-world skills. Thus, integrating literacy into CTE classrooms not only aligns with CCSS, it provides valuable opportunities for struggling adolescent readers to connect literacy instruction with content that motivates and interests them (Hyslop, 2010; O'Connor, 2010).

One of the goals of CTE is to prepare students for technical careers. Effectively integrating literacy instruction across all content areas is essential to support struggling readers if they are to gain skills required to succeed in a certified program (Blosveren, Liben, & DeWitt, 2014). For example, Tierney and Cunningham (2011) argued for reading strategies to monitor comprehension and help students make meaning of their new learning, such as building background knowledge, pre-teaching vocabulary, scaffolding learning tasks, summarizing and synthesizing in order to encourage students to monitor their comprehension of the text. …

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