OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Adolescent Literacy
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Despite significant public and private investments in research to identify effective strategies for teaching young readers, millions of high school youth-having made their way through the educational system without benefiting from these strategies-are currently reading at very low levels. Without the reading skills they need to access, comprehend, and apply the information obtained from text, these students are unable to fully participate and succeed in their classes and, far too often, fail or drop out of school. Moreover, many students find their difficulties resurface at the post-secondary level and in the workplace.

Read about adolescent literacy in OVAE's issue brief, Every Young American a Strong Reader. [downloadable files] MS WORD (256K) | PDF (58K)

The Department is undertaking an ambitious effort to reverse these trends. Among its efforts:

  • Adolescent Literacy Research Network
    The network's research projects will identify what contributes to the development of reading and writing abilities in adolescents. It will also help create methods for the identification, prevention, and remediation of reading and writing disabilities in adolescents.
    Access the original Notice Inviting Applications.

  • The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires States to create their own standards for what a child should know and be able to do for all grades. Standards must be developed for reading and for math immediately, and for science by the 2005-06 school year.

  • The No Child Left Behind Act also establishes the Reading First Initiative to support states in making significant improvements in classroom reading instruction, assessment, and professional development that reflect the findings of scientifically-based research and to ensure that all students are proficient readers by Grade 3.

  • The U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse provides a central repository for information on research-based practices for improving student achievement.

  • In partnership with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute for Literacy and a number of education associations, the Department sponsored a conference series in Spring 2002 designed to assess what is known about adolescent literacy and to examine a number of promising models.

See the Department's web site for reading resources.

Research and Evaluation

  • National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) The Nation's Report Card: Reading and Mathematics 2003
    Assessments were conducted in 2003 in all 50 states in reading and mathematics in the fourth and eighth grades. The District of Columbia and the school systems operated by the Department of Defense for domestic and overseas personnel also participated, for a total of 53 jurisdictions.

  • NAEP 2003 Reading Assessment Results
    Includes major results in reading assessments of approximately 187,000 fourth-graders and 155,000 eighth-graders.

  • NCES 2003 Trial Urban District Assessment
    In 2002, NAEP conducted the first Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. In 2003, nine urban districts (including the original five) participated in the TUDA in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. Only public school students were sampled in the TUDA.

  • Teaching Children to Read
    A report by the National Reading Panel on key skills and teaching methods central to reading achievement in grades K-3. Provides a foundation from which to assess the unique needs of adolescent readers and then set rigorous guidelines for evaluating research on high school reading models and literacy interventions.

Noteworthy Practices

Although rigorous evaluation is still needed to determine the effectiveness of these programs and their usefulness in a range of educational settings with a diversity of students, there is much to learn from the following models:

  • Language! is designed to teach phonological, phonemic, vocabulary, fluency and text-comprehension skills to students reading below grade-level.

  • Strategic Instruction supports students' mastery of reading and writing skills and their application across the content areas.

  • Read 180 is a comprehensive reading intervention program designed to meet the needs of students in elementary to high school whose reading achievement is below the proficient level.

  • Corrective Reading provides intensive intervention for students in Grades 4-12 who are reading one or more years below grade level.

  • Strategic Reading involves all 9th grade students in a daily 90-minute reading class designed to develop reading and fluency skills. download files PDF

Additional Links

Contact Us

Please email HighSchools@ed.gov with your questions or comments regarding the Department's High School Initiative

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Last Modified: 11/23/2007