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Adolescent Literacy For All: Helping All Students, Including English Language Learners And Students With Special Needs, Acquire The Foundational Skills



(in alphabetical order)

Dr. Nella Bea Anderson, Director, Teacher Education Program, Western State College
Mr. John L. Barry, Superintendent, Aurora Public Schools
The Honorable Michael Bennet, United States Senate (D-CO)
Ms. Susana Cordova, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning, Denver Public Schools
Dr. Jeanette Cornier, Assistant Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education
Mr. Dwight D. Jones, Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education
Dr. Randy L. Miller, Superintendent, Eaton Re-2 School District
The Honorable Barbara O’Brien, Lieutenant Governor, State of Colorado
Dr. Spiros Protopsaltis, Legislative Counsel, Office of Congressman Jared Polis, United States House of Representatives (CO-2)
Dr. Cynthia Shanahan, Professor, Literacy, Language, and Culture, University of Illinois at Chicago; Executive Director, Council on Teacher Education
The Honorable Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education; Former Governor, State of West Virginia

Approximately 120 educators, policymakers, and business and community leaders gathered on June 19 in Denver, Colorado, to learn more about the critical role that adolescent literacy plays in ensuring all students graduate from high school college and career ready and the importance of building a local, state, and national vision for how to help all students acquire these foundational skills. The forum was sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Colorado Department of Education, and Denver Public Schools.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight Jones opened the forum with a reflection on a recent trip to Sterling Penitentiary, where the single largest unifying factor of those incarcerated was their low literacy skills. He emphasized the importance of literacy skills as a means to improve the paths that youngsters take and help them to make better choices.

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, noted the importance of literacy skills in preparing students for success after high school and the subsequent impact on the state and national economies. He also applauded Colorado leaders at the local, state, and federal levels for their leadership on this issue.

Colorado Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien also reflected on an experience she had at Florence Penitentiary, where the warden had described the sadness of watching grown men struggle to learn to read. She emphasized the urgency of this issue in terms of its impact on the lives of today’s youth as well as the prosperity of the state and the nation.

Dr. Cynthia Shanahan, a professor at the University of Illinois and one who worked for many years helping underprepared college students build their literacy skills, presented findings from her research on how to improve reading achievement for older readers. She defined and emphasized the three types of literacy—basic, intermediate, and disciplinary—that are critical to literacy instruction in middle and high school. Dr. Shanahan presented her ten keys to success as a guide for how to successfully improve the literacy skills of adolescent students.

A distinguished panel described and responded to presentations on various efforts underway in Colorado to boost students’ literacy skills and thereby enhancing student achievement.

Panelists included Dr. Jeanette Cornier, assistant commissioner for the Colorado Department of Education, who outlined the full range of efforts underway at the state level; Superintendent Randy Miller from the Eaton Re-2 School District, who described his district’s experience as part of the Secondary Literacy Network; Ms. Susana Cordova, executive director for Teaching and Learning at Denver Public Schools, who outlined the district work including its participation in the Urban Literacy Network; Superintendent John Barry from Aurora Public Schools, who discussed his schools’ ongoing experiences with Colorado’s Rural Secondary Literacy Program; and Dr. Nella Bea Anderson, director of the Teacher Education Program at Western State College, who emphasized the importance of infusing literacy into teacher preparation programs and the usefulness of data linkages between K–12 and higher education.

On behalf of Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), Dr. Spiros Protopsaltis, legislative counsel, spoke about the congressman’s commitment to this issue and about the comprehensive literacy bill that he will be introducing later this summer.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) stressed the importance of accepting responsibility for the state of our nation’s education system, without placing blame, and moving forward to finish the job of educating all students for a bright future. Committing himself to helping realize the necessary change in the system, he praised Colorado for being at the frontline of changing the conversation on education and acknowledging that the existing system will not work without major reform.


Event-day Agenda PDF filePDF
Speaker Bios PDF filePDF
Colorado Department of Education’s Rural Secondary Literacy Project PDF filePDF
Denver Public Schools’ SpringBoard Instructional Support Plan PDF filePDF
Denver Public Schools’ SpringBoard Instructional Support Plan at a Glance PDF filePDF
Beyond a Good Start: How to Improve Reading Achievement for Older Readers PDF filePDF
 (A PowerPoint presentation by Cynthia Shanahan)
State Actions to Improve Adolescent Literacy: Results from NASBE’s State Adolescent Literacy Network PDF filePDF
“Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content-Area Literacy” PDF filePDF
 (An article by Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan)
“Draft Literacy Bill Would Boost Funds for Older Students” (A June 15, 2009 article by Education Week)

AUDIO and VIDEO from the event:

061909BarbaraOBrienWelcome and Opening Remarks audio
Audio* and videoVideo 
(Flash popup)

Mr. Dwight D. Jones, Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education
The Honorable Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education; Former Governor, State of West Virginia
The Honorable Barbara O’Brien, Lieutenant Governor, State of Colorado




061909CynthiaShanahanThe Role of Literacy in College and Career Readiness audio
Audio* and videoVideo 
(Flash popup)

Dr. Cynthia Shanahan, Professor, Literacy, Language, and Culture, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Executive Director, Council on Teacher Education




061909PanelBuilding a District, State, and Federal Vision to Support Literacy Skills for All Adolescents audio
Audio* and videoVideo (Flash popup)

Dr. Jeanette Cornier, Assistant Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education
Dr. Randy L. Miller, Superintendent, Eaton Re-2 School District
Ms. Susana Cordova, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning, Denver Public Schools
Mr. John L. Barry, Superintendent, Aurora Public Schools
Dr. Nella Bea Anderson, Director, Teacher Education Program, Western State College

061909SenatorBennetCongressional Efforts to Support Adolescent Literacy and the K–12 Literacy Continuum audioAudio* and videoVideo (Flash popup)

Dr. Spiros Protopsaltis, Legislative Counsel, Office of Congressman Jared Polis, United States House of Representatives (CO-2)
The Honorable Michael Bennet, United States Senate (D-CO)




061909BobWiseClosing Remarks
 audioAudio* and videoVideo (Flash popup)

The Honorable Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education; Former Governor, State of West Virginia





* To download audio MP3 files, right-click over “Audio” link in Internet Explorer and select “Save Target As…”. Other browsers (Firefox, Safari, etc…) have similar functionality. To listen only, simply left-click on “Audio” link.


Colorado High Schools State Card
Comprehensive Literacy Bill Summary
Key Pieces of High School Legislation

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