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Expert Q&A

Students Behind by More than Two Grade Levels

Frequently we encounter students in the 4th grade and above who have huge gaps in their literacy skills and are two or more grade levels behind academically. How do we teach these students foundational literacy skills, word recognition, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension and what materials/resources do you recommend that do not seem babyish?

You are not alone in having large numbers of students who are struggling readers and writers and in having great concern about what to do to help these students improve their literacy skills. The scope of this problem is huge: According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) approximately two-thirds of 8th- and 12th-graders read below the proficient level, and about one-quarter are unable to read at the most basic level. The solution to this problem must include school- or district-wide literacy planning that is more than just simply placing “band-aids” on the problem. Fortunately, in recent years state and national attention, initiatives, and funding have begun to shift to cover grades 4-12. There are a number of excellent research reviews and white papers aimed at providing educators like yourself information to develop meaningful, long-term plans for providing the interventions that these students need.

I have written an article titled Middle and High School Reading Achievement: A School-Wide Approach(opens in a new window) that might help you think about the various components that make up a successful plan for improving literacy for all students in a middle or high school. I have also listed below a number of resources that you will find helpful, many of which can be downloaded from the Alliance for Excellent Education(opens in a new window).