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  • What Should Secondary Educators Do About the Science of Reading?

    I recently had the privilege of attending a roundtable discussion hosted by Lexia, focused on the question: What does the science of reading mean in secondary settings? Researchers and practitioners were at the table - we represented both academia and the real world of middle and high schools. The conversation was illuminating and compelling. The take-aways are worth sharing and then pulling on. First, the science of reading is a huge body of research - spanning over 50 years and representing many aspects of reading (the Reading League has a great definitional guide). This research has implications for teaching and learning in middle and high schools, though research in these spaces is harder to source than in elementary schools. Among these implications: the importance of morphology, fluency, and knowledge building. Critically important here was the fact that: content area teachers need some access to and practice with science-of-reading aligned instructional moves; reading specialists can and should help students who have so far been denied the opportunity to read at grade level; school building and system leaders need to support this work with professional learning, redesigned school structures, and quality instructional materials. Also discussed at length was the importance of language in how we learn - language is how we engage in literacy in the disciplines (reading, writing, speaking & listening). Rather than every teacher being a reading teacher, every teacher is a language teacher. Therefore, secondary teachers have an obligation to make the language of their discipline accessible to students. This might mean engaging in morphology in a social studies classroom, or fluency in practice in a science classroom. All of it in the pursuit of accessing challenging content and engaging with that content in a disciplinary way. In other words, literacy accelerators in the name of accessing content. Finally, we all agreed that changing programs, instructional materials, and system structures can be great, but only when measured by the impact on students. In other words, student experience and outcomes matter. Deeply. How does literacy work in various content areas affirm or challenge students’ identity as Gholdy Muhammad reminds us? How does students’ coursework provide Rudine Sims Bishop’s windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors? How do the stories students studied and tasks they engaged in reflect the socio-political consciousness Gloria Ladson-Billings insists upon? As summer rolls into fall and my work with secondary educators continues, I want to pull further on these threads: How does the body of evidence we call the science of reading influence literacy teaching and learning in secondary schools? How do language & literacy act as access points to (or gatekeepers from!) content? How might aligned instruction empower and liberate students to engage in critical work?

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