Written by Linda Friedrich (pictured), Sharon Saez, and Mary Stump of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd. Excerpted from School Administrator (Nov 2019) and posted here with permission.

Faced with the question, “How can we impact more secondary school students who are struggling readers?,” administrators in Maryland’s Washington County Public Schools decided to start small with cross-disciplinary literacy.

In summer 2018, district leadership strategically selected a four-teacher, 9th-grade team to participate in a series of Reading Apprenticeship professional development sessions sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education. These teachers discovered a new approach for developing student learning communities and building students’ literacy skills to support content-area learning.

Maryland, a local control state, recently sponsored WestEd’s Reading Apprenticeship regional professional development institutes because the evidence-based approach addresses the literacy challenge facing students in high school subjects.

Reading Apprenticeship, developed over three decades by Ruth Schoenbach, Cynthia Greenleaf, and their WestEd colleagues, provides an evidence-based approach for addressing the disciplinary literacy challenge. The framework offers a coherent guide for supporting students’ increased independence as learners and for developing their knowledge and skills in the content areas.

Reading Apprenticeship shows how teachers can build on secondary students’ personal strengths and enthusiasm for social interaction to develop the cognitive skills and knowledge necessary to engage with rigorous content in science, history, English language arts and math. Metacognitive conversation — making thinking visible — links these four dimensions together as students engage in extensive reading.

Read the full story of how school districts in Maryland and Michigan worked with Reading Apprenticeship to build content-area learning in the upper grades in School Administrator.