Panel Urges Attention to Adolescent Literacy


In the article below, Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy experts gathered to discuss their final report in which they spent five years examining the need for better reading and writing skills among students in grades 4 through 12. The experts stressed the importance of action at each state level, suggesting reading and writing standards be set high and state tests be set to the levels of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Statewide data systems for all literacy, as well as, including adolescent-literacy training in state teacher-certification programs were considered of high importance.

Catherine Snow, a Harvard University education professor who chaired the Carnegie panel, said an important tenement of the report is to have the nation’s entire education system recognize that the traditional literacy approach (focusing on building skills at a young age) doesn’t help students with “complex vocabulary, composition, and concepts they encounter in high school.” Another panelist, Michael Kamil, a Stanford University education professor, said that the sole responsibility for teaching adolescent literacy cannot rest on the shoulders of English teachers. Literacy needs to be taught across the disciplines in each subject of middle and high school, because at these higher levels, literacy comprehension, and therefore instruction, is grounded within the content.

Students learn best when they can draw comparisons and connections between information they already know and the new knowledge presented to them. That is why in Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers, the basics of problem solving are presented to high schoolers within profiles about innovators in medicine, science, math, finance, art, music and English to relate their previous knowledge of the core subject to the new critical and creative thinking skills taught within the book. There is no reason why adolescent literacy cannot also be strengthened if it were taught within the core subjects.

How can literacy instruction be integrated into the curriculum of other subjects?

What can districts do to ban together and mastermind effective statewide standards and data systems to measure and track outcomes?

What role does emotional intelligence play in students’ ability to build a strong literacy foundation for cross-curriculum learning?



Published Online: September 15, 2009
Panel Urges Attention to Adolescent Literacy
By Catherine Gewertz


Leading figures in education policy, academia, and philanthropy called today for a “re-engineering” of the nation’s approach to adolescent literacy, saying nothing short of a “literacy revolution” is needed to keep students in school and ensure that they are able to learn the complex material that college and careers will demand of them.

The experts gathered to discuss and draw attention to the release of the final report of the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, which has spent five years examining the need for better reading and writing skills among students in grades 4 through 12. Vartan Gregorian, the president of the foundation, urged audience members to “be good ancestors” to future generations by pushing for sound adolescent-literacy policy and practice, given the pivotal role such skills play in young people’s lives, and the low level of skill students have shown on national tests.

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