Nation’s Educators Study Middle School Literacy

SA Bronx 1 Middle School won 2nd place for the K-6 Under 900 division. Credit: Success Academy

Free, Two-Day Literacy Convening Draws Teachers and Administrators from 10 States to Success Academy’s Robertson Center

Educators from California, Connecticut, DC, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin convened yesterday for a deep dive on middle school literacy at the Robertson Center at Success Academy, a new accelerator for advancing the work of teachers and administrators across the country. Hailing from traditional district schools, public charter schools, private and parochial schools, the educators went under the hood of Success Academy’s approach to teaching reading in middle school, a critical and often overlooked area of college readiness.


“We see a direct through-line from middle school reading to college readiness,” said Jessica Sie, Success Academy’s Director of Literacy and History. “Reading at the college level is relentless and complex. A great middle school reading program is one of the strongest levers we have to ensure students are prepared to engage in rigorous high school and college reading. This work doesn’t make a lot of headlines, yet it’s mission-critical.”


Educators across the country tend to struggle with teaching middle school reading. National tests show that students’ literacy skills do not progress between fourth and eighth grades, with roughly one third proficient as fourth graders and virtually the same percentage demonstrating reading proficiency by the end of middle school. By the time students enter college, a significant portion require remedial help in reading. Only a fraction of these students go on to earn a college degree.


Since 2013, when its high performance on more rigorous Common Core tests drew national attention, Success Academy has shared best practices with district and charter educators from around the country, inviting them to school-based trainings and workshops. Today’s workshop was anchored in the Success Academy middle school reading curriculum, which the network released this summer for free via the Success Academy Education Institute.


Across interactive sessions and classroom observations at Success Academy Hudson Yards Middle School, facilitators and participants focused on the the level of intellectual preparation required from educators in order to advance students’ comprehension and critical thinking.


“Watching great teaching in action is like seeing the tip of an iceberg,” said Stacey Gershkovich, Managing Director of Sharing for the Robertson Center. “So much of the work is happening under the surface. Those teachers have engaged deeply with the texts they’re teaching, zeroed in on the right questions to elicit critical thinking, and studied student work to predict areas of struggle. This week’s program was about creating the conditions to do that complex, fascinating work in schools and classrooms across the country.”


This week’s workshop is the first in a series of free, public workshops that will take place at the Robertson Center this year. Additional public programming for the 2018-19 school year will include thought leadership panels on key education topics and teacher wellness events.


“We want this to be a place where educators of all backgrounds come to think big, get good and feel great,” said Rebecca O’Neill, Executive Director of the Robertson Center. “These extraordinary people are charting the path to the future we all seek. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to bring them together.”


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