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IMPROVING THE LIVES OF OUR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: Alliance and Scholastic Co-Host Invitational High School Literacy Summit in Phoenix

"Leaders from the Phoenix Union High School District and leaders from the business community have forged a partnership that is transforming local high schools into centers of learning and engagement, where struggling readers are given an opportunity for success," said Susan Frost, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

In Every Child a Graduate, the Alliance noted that approximately a quarter of all high school students read at “below basic” levels. Hundreds of thousands of students who make it through four years of high school cannot read and write well enough to succeed in college or compete in today’s increasingly competitive job market. More tragically, over 30 percent of all students do not even graduate from high school, and in urban schools these rates rise above 50 percent.

Last week, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Phoenix (AZ) Union High School District, and Scholastic, Inc., an education publishing firm, co-hosted a high school literacy summit that convened about 125 leaders from the education and policy communities to discuss how to improve outcomes for the millions of middle and high school students who struggle to read at grade level.

Speakers included top literacy researchers, as well as practitioners who are implementing reading intervention programs around the country. Participants viewed one example of an intensive reading intervention program, Scholastic’s READ 180, visiting the ten Phoenix Union High School District’s schools in which the program is being used to help students whose reading achievement is below grade level. Approximately 3,600 of the district’s students are participating in the READ 180 program.

“Leaders from the Phoenix Union High School District and leaders from the business community have forged a partnership that is transforming local high schools into centers of learning and engagement, where struggling readers are given an opportunity for success,” said Susan Frost, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Phoenix is a good example of the districts that have made the required commitment of leadership, staff, resources, and instructional materials necessary to teach struggling readers. All students in ninth and tenth grades who are reading below grade level are receiving intensive reading intervention, and their teachers have access to professional development in teaching reading across the curriculum.”

“There’s a growing awareness that the dropout rate is not under control, especially in minority populations, and that a lot of that has to do with high-schoolers’ poor reading skills,” said Ernest Fleishman, Scholastic’s senior vice president for education. “So we need to turn that around.”

To view the Alliance’s PowerPoint presentation from the high school literacy summit, click here.

A Closer Look at READ 180 

READ 180, created as a result of more than ten years of research by experts at Vanderbilt University, is an intensive reading program designed to meet the needs of students whose reading achievement is below the proficient level. Through a collaborative research effort between Vanderbilt University and the Orange County Public School System in Florida, the READ 180 pilot was used with more than 10,000 students between 1991 and 1999. The research showed that when schools implement and follow the instructional model, significant gains can be expected after one to two years in the areas of reading achievement, the development of more positive attitudes and behaviors, and overall higher school achievement.

READ 180 is designed to support teachers in their efforts to improve reading achievement for students reading below grade level in grades four through twelve. The READ 180 approach begins with 20 minutes of whole-class literacy, in which the teacher and students engage in shared reading, read aloud, or mini skill lessons. Next, the students are split into three groups, and each group participates in three 20-minute rotations. During each of the three rotations the teacher works directly with one small group of students, while the remaining two groups work independently at the computer or reading stations. After the three rotations, the instruction ends with a 10-minute wrap-up for students to reflect on their daily performance.

The READ 180 instructional model provides a simple way to organize instruction and classroom activity. It combines research-based reading practices with the effective use of technology, offering students an opportunity to achieve reading success through a combination of instructional, modeled, and independent reading components. The instructional model is designed to send a strong message that each individual is valued, supported, given choices, and can succeed. The READ 180 model combines the following elements:

  • Recommended 90-minute daily class periods
  • Reduced class size of 15-21 students per class
  • READ 180 software that provides students with daily, intensive, individualized practice
  • Daily modeled or independent reading practice
  • Daily individual or small-group instruction
  • Whole-group instruction in word analysis, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and writing
  • Distinct classroom areas designed for each type of instructional activity including, computer area with five computers for the READ 180 instructional software, a comfortable reading area with cassette players and headphones for listening to the READ 180 audio books, and a worktable for teacher-directed small-group instruction

More information about the program is available at:

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.