White Paper Documents Literacy Crisis Among U.S. Middle Schoolers

White Paper Documents Literacy Crisis Among U.S. Middle Schoolers

October 1, 2013 


Professional Development in Key Areas Seen as Crucial

New York, NY – Preparing students for tests and preparing them for life beyond school are very different goals, says a new Generation Ready white paper that documents an alarming gap between middle school students’ ability to read words and their ability to comprehend texts across various disciplines.

“We see evidence that progress has been made in middle school literacy, but it’s also clear that an enormous number of current middle school students will graduate unprepared to comprehend complex texts necessary to succeed in college or in today’s competitive workplace,” said Sheena Hervey, Generation Ready’s chief academic officer and the paper’s author. “One huge key to future progress will be providing teachers with the strategies they need to help students close those gaps.”

Titled “Adolescent Readers in Middle School,” the paper documents that:

  • Too often, students who need the most time engaged in a variety of reading practices spend the least amount of time doing so.
  • While Common Core State Standards are designed to address low literacy rates by emphasizing more complex texts, they may come too late for the 50 percent of current 6th graders who risk graduating from high school unprepared for college or career.
  • To become competent in a number of academic content areas requires more than just applying the same skills and comprehension strategies to new kinds of tests.

The paper notes that middle school students need:

  • Explicit teaching of comprehension strategies within an all inclusive literacy program.
  • Instruction in the discipline-specific reading strategies needed to read in the content areas.
  • Teachers who work in teams and collaborate across disciplines.
  • Opportunities to collaborate around complex texts.
  • Introduction to academic and domain-specific vocabulary.

However, teachers often lack the training needed to address those needs, the paper says, noting an urgent need to put in place professional development and systemic support for middle school teachers.

“The gaps between the needs of the students and the expertise of most middle school teachers are too great to be addressed by more rigorous standards and new curricula alone,” Hervey said. “There needs to be a deepening of teachers’ understanding about the reading process and effective literacy practices across content. The typical one- or two-day workshop will not be enough.”

“Adolescent Readers in Middle School” documents progress made through job-embedded professional development in middle school classrooms in the Bronx as part of the New York City Department of Education’s Middle School Quality Initiative. In that initiative, where Hervey also serves as Senior Literacy Adviser, the number of 6th grade students reading at grade level improved from 20 percent in September 2012 to 47 percent in June 2013. Seventh-graders improved from 32 percent reading at grade level to 53 percent reading at grade level over the same period.

To read the entire white paper, visit genready.wpengine.com.

About Generation Ready

With roots that go back 20 years, Generation Ready is the nation’s leading professional development partner, working with superintendents, principals and teachers to elevate student achievement through professional learning services and targeted school and district solutions. Created through acquisition by Weld North Holdings LLC in September of 2012, Generation Ready combines the deep expertise and resources of two long-renowned education organizations – Editure/AUSSIE Professional Development and JBHM Education Group. Our mission is to support teachers and school leaders in order to educate a stronger, more vibrant generation of students prepared to meet life’s challenges. For more information, visit genready.wpengine.com.

Media Contacts:

Celina Fabrizio
P: 614-224-8114 ext. 242

Becky Mazzanobile
P: 917-501-6805