Making an Impact on Secondary School Academic Literacy: The RAISE Project

This post was written by Ruth Schoenbach, Co-Director of WestEd’s Strategic Literacy Initiative

I’m pleased to be presenting at an Education Innovation Briefing on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Four other panelists and I, all representatives of organizations that have received federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grants, will discuss our multi-year projects, each designed to address persistent challenges in our education system.

Our i3 project is called RAISE — Reading Apprenticeship Improving Secondary Education. Its goal was to address some key challenges that teachers and students confront in the face of new college- and career-readiness standards that require students to show advanced literacy proficiency not only in English classes, but also in other core classes.

At the heart of RAISE is Reading Apprenticeship, an instructional framework and approach to engaging content-area teachers in improving their students’ academic literacy. We’ve been developing and refining the Reading Apprenticeship framework here at WestEd for the past 20 years.

One of the elements — and challenges — of this i3 project was to scale up Reading Apprenticeship, dramatically expanding the number of high school teachers and students we could reach. So over the course of five years, we worked with 2,000 high school content teachers in 300 high schools serving close to 600,000 students in five states: California, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

How did we do? The RAISE project included two studies by outside evaluators: one focused on the scale-up effort and the other on impact. The final studies are wrapping up now and due out in December, but I’ll be sharing some preliminary results at the briefing today.

On the scale-up side, we know, for example, that uptake of Reading Apprenticeship was strong, with high levels of buy-in on the part of teachers and administrators. Teachers valued the project’s built-in collaboration with their colleagues, and found it to be the most effective way to build their own capacity to implement Reading Apprenticeship.

And on the impact side, for example, researchers found that Reading Apprenticeship can improve students’ ability to comprehend and reason from subject-area text, with success varying across content areas.

We will share the final evaluation results once they become available.

Contact me, Ruth Schoenbach, at rschoen@wested.org or 510.302.4255 if you have any questions.

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