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Volume 20, Number 5
September/October 2004

Adolescent Literacy

Are we overlooking the struggling teenage reader?


Beginning this fall, students entering ninth grade in Worcester, Mass., can take a new course. Called "academic literacy," the course uses a variety of texts—from Malcolm X essays to mathematics books—to engage students who have low grades and test scores and teach them strategies to enhance their reading skills.

Although the district has, on average, demonstrated relatively high performance on state tests, school leaders recognized that they needed to do more to help all students reach proficiency, according to Lisa Dyer, a teacher and district literacy coach for the Worcester Public Schools. Dyer and others also agreed that a course to help struggling readers improve their skills would enable the lowest-performing students to do better in all their content-area classes.

"The rationale is to help kids master a rigorous high school curriculum," Dyer says. "[The students in the course] need extra help to read content-area texts."

The new course is just one of a number of initiatives Worcester is undertaking to help improve literacy skills among the city's middle and high school students.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Houston A+ Challenge. "Improving Literacy Central to High School Redesign." SchoolWorks 14 (Summer 2004).

M. Kamil. Adolescents and Literacy: Reading for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003.

C.D. Lee. "Literacy in the Academic Disciplines and the Needs of Adolescent Struggling Readers." Voices in Urban Education, no. 3 (Winter/Spring 2004): 14-25.

RAND Reading Study Group. Reading for Understanding: Toward an R&D Program in Reading Comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: Author, 2002.