Partnering to Expand the Mission
In 2022, REL Southeast established a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education and three school districts in the state (Canton, Columbus, and Laurel) to focus on improving the literacy skills and abilities of adolescents. While efforts to ensure students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade have bolstered the performance of students in the primary grades in Mississippi, the text and tasks students encounter become increasingly difficult as students move into middle and high school. Therefore, many students need support if the development of their literacy skills is to keep pace.
The partnership has two projects in the three districts. The first project was designed to support English, social studies, and science teachers incorporate evidence-based literacy practices in their classrooms. The second project helps literacy intervention teachers use evidence-based practices when they instruct students with deficits in literacy skills. The goal of these projects is to facilitate literacy support of students in middle school and high school throughout the day.
When the partnership began, members established expected short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes. Short-term outcomes include knowledge-building for teachers and administrators, while medium-term outcomes include implementation of evidence-based literacy practices by teachers and the ability to recognize those practices by administrators. Finally, long-term outcomes include self-efficacy of teachers in implementing evidence-based literacy practices , sustainability of those practices in schools, and potential scale-up throughout the state. REL Southeast staff has collected evidence as the partnership projects were implemented to track progress toward the established outcomes. Teacher-created lesson plans, interviews with district coaches, teacher logs, and stakeholder feedback surveys have indicated that short- and medium-term outcomes have been met. In addition, progress toward long-term goals has been validated by the fact that districts are continuing to support teachers and are taking the initiative to create tools of their own such as charts and checklists, to aid in sustained implementation of the projects associated with the partnership. Figures 1 and 2 depict a work flow chart for multi-strategy lessons and a checklist for facilitating text-based discussions developed by Laurel Public Schools.
Work Flow Chart
Text-Based Discussion Checklist
Content Area Adolescent Literacy Project
The Content Area Adolescent Literacy project was based on the Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices Practice Guide and the Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively. REL Southeast staff provided six training and coaching sessions over the 2022/23 school year to build the knowledge and ability of grades 6-12 English, social studies, and science teachers to implement the recommendations from the practice guides in their classrooms. Teachers practiced strategies related to the recommendations, they developed lessons plans, coaches created tools to aid with implementation, and school leaders were introduced to a walk-through tool to help them look for the practices the teachers were learning. Discussions in the training sessions, teacher-created lesson plans, and interactions with school and district coaches reflect that the established outcomes of knowledge building and implementation have been met.
After the sessions concluded, it became clear that it would be helpful to develop a graphic designed for content area teachers as a dissemination tool that could be a resource for implementation. Therefore, REL Southeast developed the Improving Adolescent Literacy infographic that was released in July 2023. The infographic highlights recommendations in the Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices practice guide and provides activities related to them using a science-based article for context.
REL Southeast has conducted training on adolescent content area literacy in Georgia and Florida and been asked to share this project work at various literacy conferences. It is clear that other districts and other states are interested in this work based on the requests for presentations and training.
Literacy Intervention Project
The Literacy Interventionist project is based on the recommendations of the Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4-9 Practice Guide which was released in March 2022. Since January 2023, REL Southeast staff and mentor coaches have been providing training and coaching sessions for interventionists who serve grades 4-8 in the partner school districts focused on vocabulary instruction, decoding multi-syllabic words, and fluency. The professional learning opportunities also involve a follow-up coaching component to ensure that the strategies are embedded into classroom practice. Conversations in those coaching sessions along with teacher logs reflect there has been clear progress toward knowledge building and implementation.
REL Southeast has also been asked to present conference sessions based on this work, reflecting interest from other districts and states on how to best to support students who are still in need of literacy interventions as adolescents.
Finally, there are two dissemination tools that are emerging from these partnership projects. The first is a set of videos requested by Mississippi Department of Education partnership members of some of the content area and intervention practices that have been shared in training sessions. The videos will be filmed by the Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) network and when complete, they will be broadcast by the network to provide access to teachers and students throughout the state. The videos will also be housed on YouTube to provide accessibility beyond the state of Mississippi.
The second tool is a professional learning community (PLC) that will be developed by REL Southeast in conjunction with our partners to help with the scale-up of these projects not only in Mississippi, but throughout the country. The PLC will be based on the practice guide recommendations and the training materials used in the two main partnership projects.
The Mississippi Adolescent Literacy Partnership is dedicated to supporting adolescents as they continue to grow their literacy skills. Members of the partnership are looking forward to continued improvement in literacy instruction and students skills with the implementation of these two projects and the development of tools associated with them.
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Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices. IES Practice Guide. NCEE 2008-4027. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
Vaughn, S., Kieffer, M. J., McKeown, M., Reed, D. K., Sanchez, M., St Martin, K., ... & Yañez, A. (2022). Providing reading interventions for students in grades 4-9. Educator's Practice Guide. WWC 2022007. What Works Clearinghouse.