Four Challenges Hindering Literacy Success in Urban Schools
There are several challenges urban schools face while attempting to meet the needs of its diverse student population. As one Public School Program Manager for Specialized Instruction put it, “As a district, we are heavily over-identified for special education services. We have so many children that have IEPs, so many children with significant disabilities, particularly in reading. The history is that if students are identified for SPED in Kindergarten, and they are still there in 3rd grade, chances are they are not coming out of SPED. And that’s a problem. We have to change the picture for these kids. They are our future.”
1. Teacher quality and experience—High teacher turnover and lack of experienced staff are well documented in urban schools. This makes it difficult to address the needs of at-risk students, even with resources and professional development designed to do so.
2. Chronic low achievement of at-risk populations—Large, urban districts are faced with significant numbers of students who struggle to read and succeed academically. Schools lack the staff and the time to adequately address the literacy needs of so many.
3. Incoherent instructional initiatives—Large, urban districts often have too many initiatives and programs, making it difficult to implement any one program with quality or fidelity.
4. Limited expertise in diagnostic evaluation and progress monitoring—While schools may collect a lot of performance data, most urban districts lack the expertise to truly diagnose literacy needs and differentiate instruction, especially in the early grades.
Professional development has been shown to be ineffective in raising or sustaining student achievement, largely related to the factors cited above. Urban districts invest a significant amount of money and time in professional development but often experience little or no ROI.
However, through an innovative partnership model, Lindamood-Bell is establishing onsite literacy centers staffed and managed by its program specialists. This model allows districts to meet the needs of its most struggling learners while not requiring additional professional development, programming, or demands on district staff during the instructional schedule.