Our Intervention

What intervention did you test and how did each person try it?

Each cohort member ran the Initial Survey with teachers and faculty from their schools. The survey results from the high school teachers and the college instructors showed a wide range of definitions; few agreed on the difference between the two terms. The results verified our initial hypothesis that further work is needed to define those key concepts. Spokane Public schools used the survey to get an idea of the general group thinking about college-reading and college-level reading. The survey provided a safe place to begin the dialogue.

Our next step involved using a discussion protocol to provide a structure for the initial meetings of a new professional learning community. The strength in protocols for a group of people from different schools or levels is the requirement that all people have the opportunity to share their thinking. The protocols sparked a conversation about the survey results and other teacher-generated ideas regarding what it means for students to be college-ready in reading by the end of high school and college-level in reading after the first few years in college. In our toolkit, we have provided three discussion protocols to help departments facilitate the conversation and work toward a consensus definition. The protocols choices are:

As each cohort member used one of the protocols for leading professional development around the college-reading and college-level components, we realized an application for teacher instruction and student learning was needed. This drove our team back to the state standards for high school and the WPA outcome statements for first year college composition courses to determine how to connect the college-ready and college-level definition teachers and instructors created to what actually happens in the classroom.

To accomplish this task, we adapted an Unpacking the Standards (Integrating the Common Core in Language Arts) activity to use with High School and College instructors. My (Lori Inman) role as a secondary curriculum specialist afforded me the opportunity to guide my leadership team through the process of unpacking the reading standards to determine what the standard states, what it means for student learning, and what it calls for us to teach. This activity was our next action step after we used the discussion protocol to determine a working definition of college-ready reading.

Teachers in my (Lori) district have worked diligently to align the curriculum with the state standards, but as we embarked upon this process, we soon realized that simply attaching standards to what was already being taught did not ensure that we were actually teaching the reading skills required by the standards. This realization was a defining moment with potential implications for our teaching practices. It became abundantly clear that we needed to go back and take a deep dive into the reading standards if we had any hope of helping our students become college-ready in reading.

The unpacking strategy was used at my lead facilitator meeting and resulted in moments of confusion, consternation, then sudden clarity as teachers began to view the reading standards through a teaching and learning lens rather than a standards and assessment lens. We realized that we could break a standard apart and discover specific reading and vocabulary skills that we should teach and students should learn in order to become more critical readers. The standards went from something teachers post on the wall to a usable tool in the development of lesson plans and formative assessments.

Justin Young led his English colleagues through a similar unpacking activity using the same template our cohort developed. Instead of the common core standards, his team used the WPA outcomes. We quickly realized how much these two sets of standards have in common. This was an exciting moment for us because it is now clear that the connection between high school expectations for reading skills and college expectations that students read rhetorically is there, so teachers and instructors need to collaborate in a more purposeful manner to ensure all students can successfully traverse the ladder of text complexity as they learn multifaceted strategies to become proficient readers.

Our toolkit item is a two-part process. We have provided resources for high school teachers and college instructors to start the conversations about what it means to be college-ready and college-level in reading. If educators can reach a shared vision about these two terms, the teaching and learning path becomes more clear. If the goal of high school teachers is for students to become college-ready by the end of their senior year, then the next step in the process should be to unpack what the standards say so teachers can generate tasks and activities that move students toward critical reading skills. If the goal of college instructors is to move students toward college-level reading, then their next step should be a recognition that they, too must be willing to provide students with the reading strategies needed for proficiency in rhetorical reading. Our toolkit item has the resources to guide teachers and instructors through this process.