A wealth of evidence shows that intensive, high-quality instruction can help struggling adolescent readers to catch up to grade level and build the skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond. A survey of the literacy field shows that educators now have a powerful array of tools at their disposal. We even know a great deal about which tools work well for which type of struggling reader. Researchers are in strong consensus as to a number of specific steps that can be taken to improve middle and high school literacy instruction.
To be successful, however, these interventions need to be in place in schools and classrooms across the nation, and teachers and coaches must be adequately trained to use them and to employ other tools and methods to support students as they improve their ability to read and write at grade level or beyond. Schools, districts, states, and the federal government all have important roles to play in the process of improving the literacy levels of students in the middle and high school grades.
The federal government must provide the same sort of commitment and resources that have been directed toward the teaching of early reading skills, an investment that has shown results, to the needs of adolescents. The investment begun by the federal government in reading instruction for students in the first through third grades with Reading First must be extended to include students in grades 4 through 12.
The Striving Readers initiative, launched in 2005, is a good start, but at its current funding level it supports adolescent literacy programs in only eight of the nation's school districts. In the first competition, 148 districts applied for these eight grants. Clearly, the demand is far greater than can be supported at existing levels. If Striving Readers is to make a dent in the nation's adolescent literacy crisis, it must be greatly expanded to serve students in every state and many more districts and schools.