Title

“Closing the Literacy Gap for Urban Youth: Successful Instructional Strategies for the ELA Classroom.”

Focused Area

Youth-At-Risk in Urban Settings

Relevance to Focused Area

The above proposal relates to the focused area of urban settings as it explores the correlation between the low economic status of urban youth and literacy. It highlights innovative instructional strategies and classroom activities that have proven effective in increasing the literacy rate among urban high school students.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

Despite decades of reform efforts, urban youth continue to underperform on common indicators of academic achievement. By using innovative instructional strategies, high school classroom teachers can improve literacy among their urban students of low socio-economic background and help close the gap in academic achievement.

Brief Program Description

How can ELA classroom teachers ensure that urban high school students from low income families are prepared to meet the literacy demands of the 21st century? In this session, teachers will actively participate in engaging and hands-on instructional strategies and activities that they can incorporate in their classrooms to increase student literacy and close the gap in academic achievement.

Summary

By three years of age there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. Children from low-income families have already fallen significantly behind in reading proficiency. As the curriculum becomes more advanced and literacy demands become increasingly more complex, urban high school students fall further behind and are unlikely to achieve the skills needed to be successful in the highly competitive world of the 21st century.

Urban high school students from low income families need to develop and improve their literacy skills, but how can teachers, especially in the ELA classroom, close the gap that has increasingly grown for these students and promote academic achievement in their classrooms?

Using data from formative assessments such as the MAP test, as well as data from such informal assessments as Jerry Johns’ Basic Reading Inventory to inform student instruction, teachers in the ELA classroom can instruct urban high school students at their level and design engaging classroom activities that not only encourage, but also significantly increase literacy skills among these students.

Through the use of innovative instructional strategies and activities in the ELA classroom that relate to urban high school students’ lives and parallel their worlds, these students become engaged in learning and develop literacy skills in the areas of vocabulary, fluency, comprehension of narrative and expository text, and writing. Student acquisition and continued development of these literacy skills not only increases academic achievement, but also ensures that urban high school students are able to compete in the ever changing world of the 21st century.

By empowering ELA teachers with effective and engaging instructional strategies and activities that enhance adolescent literacy development, the never-ending cycle of educational disadvantage for urban youth of low socio-economic backgrounds can be broken. Urban high school students who enter high school lacking literacy skills and struggle to read at grade level can be provided with the critical foundations necessary for building the complex skills that are needed to be prepared to enter college or be productive members of the workface as long as teachers are willing to be creative in their classrooms.

Evidence

Urban students from low income families enter high school with average literacy skills five years behind those of high income students (Reardon, Valentino, Shores, 2012). Research has found that children raised in poverty experience a more limited range of language capabilities. They are exposed to fewer words and are less likely to be read to by parents. Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study (1996) found that 61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes and that while children from middle-income homes have on average 13 books per child, there is only one book for every 300 children in low-income neighborhoods.

The disadvantages with which urban students from low-income families enter school ultimately impacts their academic performance and leaves these students significantly behind their peers. For instance, research has shown that there is nearly a 90% probability that a child will remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade. Further, knowledge of alphabet letters at entry into kindergarten is a strong predictor of reading ability in 10th grade. (Boyer, 1991).

By using data from formative and informal assessments to inform instruction and designing engaging classroom activities that not only meet urban high school students at their level, teachers in ELA can significantly increase literacy skills among these students. At The Academy for Urban Scholars, urban high school students who are beginning the academic school year with a 4th-5th grade reading level are ending the school year with average gains in reading of 3-4 years. Through the use of innovative instructional strategies and activities in the ELA classroom that relate to urban high school students’ lives and parallel their worlds, these students are closing the literacy gap. This is demonstrated on The Academy for Urban Scholars’ 2013-2014 Ohio Department of Education Report Card in which students who were economically disadvantaged achieved with 82.9 % performance rating in Reading and the school itself received an exceeds standards in gap closings.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Molly Ferryman is the Title I Reading teacher at The Academy For Urban Scholars in Columbus, Ohio. She has 22 years of experience in education as both an English teacher and Reading Specialist and has worked in a variety of classroom settings, including a maximum security prison for male juvenile offenders. Mrs. Ferryman has a BA in English and a BS in Education from The Ohio State University. She received her Reading Endorsement in 2014 and is currently working on obtaining her TESOL Endorsement. This is her first time speaking at The National Youth-at-Risk Conference.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

“Closing the Literacy Gap for Urban Youth: Successful Instructional Strategies for the ELA Classroom.”

How can ELA classroom teachers ensure that urban high school students from low income families are prepared to meet the literacy demands of the 21st century? In this session, teachers will actively participate in engaging and hands-on instructional strategies and activities that they can incorporate in their classrooms to increase student literacy and close the gap in academic achievement.