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"Administrators and teachers in secondary schools throughout the United States have finally begun to realize the impact that insufficient reading …skills have on the ability of students to acquire the information included in the core curriculum," wrote Keith Lenz.

A recent national focus on reading has placed a greater importance on adolescent literacy. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), in partnership with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and other government and private entities, convened a series of workshops to examine scientifically based research in this area and identify research needs.

Workshop 1

State of the Science and Research Needs,” March 6-8 in Washington, DC, brought together education policy makers and researchers to discuss the present body of knowledge on adolescent literacy. In her welcoming remarks, OVAE’s Assistant Secretary, Carol D’Amico, described illiteracy as a personal burden for individuals and a threat to economic security.

Focusing on underachieving adolescents, Dr. Donald D. Deshler, Director of the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, listed four challenges for literacy instruction: 1) pressure on teachers to teach many complex curriculums, 2) lack of time in secondary school curriculum for literacy competencies, 3) secondary teachers’ reluctance to think of literacy acquisition as their central focus, 4) lack of hope, purpose, and self-esteem in struggling adolescent readers.

In his presentation on motivational instructional practices and barriers to reading, University of Maryland’s Dr. John Guthrie showed the correlation between low achievement and low motivation in adolescent readers.

Workshop 2

Practice Models for Adolescent Literacy Success,” May 20 in Baltimore, tackled the need for research-based instructional practice to assist teachers in improving the literacy of all secondary school students. Hans Meeder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of OVAE, and Peggy McCardle of NICHD opened the workshop with comments on the importance of improving adolescent literacy by addressing basic research questions.

Presenting her synthesis of recent research on adolescent literacy, Mary E. Curtis of the Center for Special Education at Lesley Universitylaid the groundwork for the questions that researchers need to answer.

Among the questions that guided the workshop were:

  • Why does it seem that learning to read is more difficult after age nine?
  • Which reading abilities in early childhood are indicative of reading difficulties in adolescence?
  • How do we motivate and re-engage secondary students who have experienced failure in literacy?

“Administrators and teachers in secondary schools throughout the United States have finally begun to realize the impact that insufficient reading …skills have on the ability of students to acquire the information included in the core curriculum,” wrote Keith Lenz, research scientist at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. “Such a reform effort at the school level must be based on a shared vision, shared knowledge base, shared responsibility, and shared accountability to be successful.”

Four models were presented as examples of current practices in reading instruction: Corrective Reading, Language, Strategic Reading, andStrategic Instruction Model.

Visit the Adolescent Literacy workshop’s Web site.

A Way to Improve Adolescent Literacy – Strategic Instruction Model


By using a collection of reading, writing, studying and learning strategies to guide teachers in their instruction of at-risk middle and high school students, the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning created a curriculum development model, the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM).

SIM comprises four components: literacy focused interventions, evidence based instruction, a culture of professional development, and an implementation framework. Tens of thousands of teachers use SIM, and over one thousand trainers are available across the country for professional and implementation guidance.

Michael Pressley, Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Notre Dame said this about SIM: “There are no quick fixes to the problems facing underachieving adolescents. Intensive, well-designed instruction is required from exceedingly well–trained teachers. What the Kansas team has designed and how they prepare teachers to use their interventions is right on target!”

More information about the KU Strategic Instruction Model.




U.S. Office of Vocational and Adult Education Helps Link Learning to the Real World

Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) supports a wide range of policies, programs, and activities that help prepare young people and adults for further education and successful careers. A new initiative under the Bush administration, “Preparing America’s Future,” organizes OVAE’s efforts into three areas: preparing youth to complete high school ready for postsecondary education and employment, supporting community and technical colleges, and bringing English fluency and higher literacy to millions of underserved Americans. Congress appropriates approximately $1.9 billion annually to programs under OVAE’s jurisdiction, including the Perkins Act which supports career and technical education in high schools and community colleges.

Learn more about OVAE.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Continues to Focus on Reading

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is part of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. biomedical research arm. NICHD supports and conducts research on a continuum of topics related to the health of populations, adults, families, and children, including influences on learning, reading and literacy. Much of its literacy research relates to the biological and developmental aspects of reading.

In 1998, Congress asked NICHD to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various reading-instruction practices and their potential use in classrooms. In December 2000, the National Reading Panel released a report presenting its conclusions and developed a set of rigorous standards to evaluate the research on the effectiveness of different instructional approaches used in teaching reading skills. The report focused on phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, reading comprehension, teacher education and computer technology. Now NICHD is looking at adolescent literacy with the U.S. Department of Education.

National Reading Panel’s Report


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