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The literacy crisis among students in America’s middle and high schools is well documented. Based on the most recent reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than one in four (29 percent) American eighth graders in public schools read “below basic,” indicating that they have no literal understanding of what they read, and putting them at great risk of dropping out of high school. To combat the reading difficulties their students often face, many middle and high schools around the country have turned to literacy coaches for help. These coaches work with content area teachers to help them infuse literacy instruction into their teaching and help them recognize students with reading difficulties.

While examples of what good literacy coaches do exist in secondary schools around the country, coming up with a common definition of what qualities literacy coaches has been more difficult. In May 2004, representatives from five national organizations-the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for the Social Studies-came together to fill that void. Earlier this month, they issued a report that details the “must have” competencies of good middle school and high school literacy coaches.

The report, Standards for Middle and High School Literacy Coaches, breaks down key elements of literacy coaching into two categories: leadership standards and content area standards. While leadership standards apply to literacy coaches regardless of the content area in which they are working, content area standards are more specific to the course being taught by the teacher the coach is assisting (such as, English/language arts, math, science, or social studies).

In its leadership standards, the report calls for individuals who are “skillful collaborators,” “skillful job-embedded coaches,” and “skillful evaluators of literacy needs,” meaning that they can recognize literacy needs within various subject areas and interpret and use assessment data to inform instruction. In its content area standards, the report notes that literacy coaches need to be “accomplished middle and high school teachers who are skilled in developing and implementing instructional strategies to improve academic literacy in the specific content area.”

The report cautions that while successful literacy coaches may have many of the skills and abilities presented in the report, few will meet all of the standards-at least initially. It calls for patience and notes that most expert teachers typically need 2 to 3 years to develop the full complement of coaching skills. Unlike literacy coaches in elementary schools, additional time may be needed as secondary coaches “assume the additional responsibility of working with colleagues across content areas.” The report also calls for coaches to have access to rigorous professional development throughout their employment that will help them sharpen their skills. “In hiring,” the report reads, “employers may not be able to find individuals who meet all the standards. In those cases, the goal should be for literacy coaches to meet these standards over a reasonable period of time.”

In its conclusion, the report acknowledges that a great deal is known about the literacy needs of middle and high school students. However, it adds that “finding ways to put that knowledge immediately to work to improve the culture and conditions of secondary schools in the United States is an imperative. Equipping middle and high schools with trained literacy coaches is at least one line of attack to combat ‘the quiet resignation that seems to pervade education circles … that little if anything can be done.’ ”

The complete report is available at


Data Quality Campaign Launched by Alliance for Excellent Education, Others


On November 17, a national campaign to improve the quality, accessibility, and use of data in education was launched at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and U.S. Department of Education’s Data Summit. The Data Quality Campaign is a collaborative effort of 10 national organizations that aims to provide tools and resources that will assist states in their development of quality longitudinal data systems, while also providing a national forum for reducing duplication of effort and promoting greater coordination and consensus among organizations focusing on improving data quality, access, and use.

“Since the enactment of No Child Left Behind, the importance of data in education reform has grown tremendously,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Unfortunately, many states have struggled to keep pace. The Alliance is pleased to join the Data Quality Campaign and aid its members in the drive to highlight the need for reliable data that can both identify problems and drive resources to the areas most in need, with the ultimate goal of improved student achievement.”

The Data Quality Campaign was founded by Achieve, Inc, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Education Trust, the National Center for Educational Accountability, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, the Schools Interoperability Framework Association, Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. To learn more, visit


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