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ERIC Number: ED531662
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jul
Pages: 55
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Boosting Adolescent and Young Adult Literacy: An Examination of Literacy Teaching and Learning in Philadelphia's Accelerated High Schools
Gold, Eva; Edmunds, Kimberly; Maluk, Holly; Reumann-Moore, Rebecca
Research for Action
In 2010-11, the School District of Philadelphia (the District) operated thirteen accelerated high schools that served approximately 2,000 under-credited, over-age students. Each of the accelerated schools was managed by one of seven external providers, each with its own educational approach, and each with a contractual agreement with the District's Office of Multiple Pathways (OMP). In 2009, the OMP, in conjunction with the dropout prevention and recovery city-wide effort entitled Project U-Turn, strongly encouraged every accelerated school to develop a focus on literacy. Many of the students entering the accelerated schools were low-level readers, and those most closely involved with efforts to reduce student dropout strongly believed that improvement of students' reading, writing and oral communication was critical to perseverance to graduation. This report examines the development of a focus on literacy in Philadelphia's accelerated high schools. To support the focus on literacy, the OMP, in partnership with Project U-Turn, and Jobs for the Future (JFF), adopted of the "JFF Common Instructional Framework," which is a set of six instructional strategies that work together as a cross-content approach to improving literacy learning. The Framework was accompanied by professional development and coaching, as well as "rounds"--the practice of teachers visiting each others' classrooms in order to observe, share and form professional communities of practice. This study provides a theory of action explaining how the tasks of reconnecting disconnected students, re-engaging students in learning, and the JFF Framework were to interact and build literacy skills and academic competence which in turn would remediate learning gaps and accelerate student learning to prepare students for timely graduation. The report focuses on: (1) key factors that affected how the accelerated high schools responded to the introduction of the JFF Framework; (2) the range of strategies used by the accelerated high schools to reconnect disconnected youth to school; and (3) how the accelerated high schools reengaged disengaged students to literacy and learning. Their findings fall into three areas: (1) implementation of the JFF Framework; (2) reconnecting disconnected students; and (3) re-engaging adolescents and young adults in learning. Here are the findings in three areas related to implementation--adoption, use and sustainability: (1) Adoption of the JFF Framework helped to establish a focus on literacy among all the accelerated high schools. Nonetheless, there was considerable variation in the level of adoption and implementation of the JFF Framework among the 13 accelerated high schools; (2) The alignment of the JFF Framework with each school's educational philosophy and the attitude of school leadership were the primary determinants of the degree to which each school adopted the JFF Framework; (3) Among their six case study schools, two schools were "highly committed" to the JFF Framework while four schools were "partially committed"; (4) Most schools were not using the full set of six JFF strategies. This occurred for two reasons: schools were encouraged to focus initially on only 2-3 of the strategies and had not progressed beyond them; and/or schools were not fully committed to the JFF Framework; (5) Some school leaders and teachers were unsure of the value of the JFF Framework, believing the JFF strategies mirrored best practices for instruction that they were already using. They did not embrace the idea that the strategies needed to be implemented as a coherent set; (6) The OMP's focus on literacy and use of the JFF Framework in the accelerated high schools helped to focus the schools more on the need for school-wide consistency in literacy practices, regardless of the degree to which they adopted the JFF Framework; (7) Staff in schools that were strongly committed to implementing the JFF Framework had the most positive response to the JFF residency professional development, the combined professional development provided by JFF in Worcester, and the site visit to UPCS; and (8) The JFF-led trainings will end for Philadelphia's accelerated high schools at the end of the 2010-11 school year; the JFF trainer believes the schools could continue on their own to use and train their colleagues in the JFF strategies, but are still fragile in their implementation of the JFF Framework. All the accelerated high schools in this study embraced the importance of reconnecting students to school. While reconnection strategies may overlap with JFF strategies, interviewees identified them as distinctly important. The first four strategies were common across all case study schools--although they varied in intensity--while the fifth strategy was utilized at two of their case study schools. These strategies included: (1) building caring, personalized relationships with students to encourage attendance and school connectedness; (2) creating a welcoming and non-traditional school environment for students; (3) preparing students for postsecondary opportunities; (4) devising various methods to improve and sustain strong student attendance; and (5) developing community-building processes and leadership opportunities to enhance students' sense of belonging and motivate students (two case study schools). Although JFF strategies were also designed to enhance engagement, schools used additional strategies to engage students in literacy learning specifically. These strategies included: (1) developing relevant content; (2) giving students choice in reading and linking reading to enjoyable learning activities; (3) creating lessons for small group work; (4) offering incentives; (5) designating special times for independent reading; and (6) addressing learning gaps. RFA will continue its research on accelerated schools in 2011-12. Based on their first round of research from January 2010-January 2011, the authors recommend: (1) Generate buy-in for sustained investment; (2) Establish productive dialogue between the OMP and JFF; (3) Increase staff participation; (4) Identify and/or develop effective teaching and learning materials; (5) Determine which factors lead to improved student attendance; and (6) Open up lines of communication between and among administrators and teachers. Appended are: (1) Characteristics of Literacy Coaches, RFA survey, Fall 2010; and (2) Characteristics of Teachers, RFA survey administered prior to focus group, Fall 2010. (Contains 11 figures and 12 footnotes.)
Research for Action. 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Tel: 215-823-2500; Fax: 215-823-2510; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Research for Action
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania