Building Reading Proficiency at the Secondary Level: A Guide to Resources
Cynthia L. Peterson, Pd.D.
David C. Caverly, Ph.D.
Sheila A. Nicholson, M.S.Ed.
Sharon O'Neal, Ph.D.
Susan Cusenbary, M.Ed.
Southwest Texas State University
We set out to document the resources available to educators who work with struggling secondary readers. These readers struggle in general education and reading classes, grades six through twelve. Some are students with mild disabilities, classified as learning disabled, for whom regular classroom teachers have instructional responsibility. Some are students whose culture or language differ from the culture of the classroom. Many are students who have become skilled evaders of reading, who know the stress of not being able to read successfully.
By the secondary grades, students are presumed to have acquired basic reading skill. Over the last decade, researchers and policymakers have all but abandoned attention to secondary-level remediation to focus on preventing the need for it. Unfortunately, the need remains. The need for a new look at adolescent literacy was the focus of a recent position statement of the International Reading Association (Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999). Our project, initiated by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), was prompted by requests from secondary educators for tools to support their students who struggle with print in the classroom. Its purpose is to establish what we know and to describe what is currently available.
With the goal of building a guide to resources, we reviewed the scholarly literature to determine: (a) current theoretical perspectives and research findings on building reading proficiency at the secondary level and (b) their implications for classroom instruction. Rather than reporting all the factors that can impact secondary-level reading proficiency, we present those for which a research base establishes essential importance and for which there are pedagogical implications. We identified and described programs and strategies that aligned with those findings.