Struggling Readers in High Schools
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey and Megan Motley
The Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act) has been around long enough that first students arrived as freshmen in our high schools last year. Since we were all in crisis mode, no one was equipped to consider how to address these students’ needs. This year, freshmen and sophomores on READ plans are forcing school leaders to consider interventions -- as well as the obvious reality that not all high school readers who struggle have a flag in Campus. We all know that if a student is struggling with reading in ELA class, the student is struggling with reading in social studies, science, and across the school day. We also know that achievement gaps only get larger when we do nothing.
But how do we help? Literacy resources are aimed at a much younger crowd, and diagnostics for this age group are scarce. Schools are faced with constraints of scheduling and staffing, and many teachers throw up our hands and exclaim “I don’t know! I’m not a reading teacher!” when asked for reading goals and progress monitoring. K-3 teachers were required to complete 45 hours of reading coursework, but secondary teachers would benefit from at least a basic understanding of the science of reading.
Reading is not “natural.” While we are born wired to understand visual or auditory stimuli, we’re not born wired to read. Reading is a complex set of learned cognitive processes happening all at the same time. Scarborough’s Reading Rope is a way to show the many components working together to produce skilled reading.
A deficit in one of these skills can weaken the strength of the whole. Effective Tier 1 strategies in the classroom, as well as using a basic Informal Reading Inventory, can help us identify and address the specific skills a reader may need.
Teachers -- not just ELA teachers -- can help teens improve their reading skills. It’s not too late! Here are several ways teachers can help students improve their reading skills.
Supporting struggling readers in high school is as complex as reading itself. Any action we take to help our students improve their skills is well worth it!
Colorado Department of Education. 2019. Colorado READ Act. https://www.cde.state.co.us/communications/readact-overviewfactsheet
Scarborough, H. 2001. Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory and practice. Pp. 97-110 in S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.) Handbook of Early Literacy. NY: Guildford Press.
Curriculum & Instruction