IU to collaborate with high school teachers on Writing and Reading Alignment Project

School of Education, Department of English receive two-year professional development grant for project

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has awarded $286,662 to the Indiana University School of Education and the IU Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences for a program to help high school teachers better prepare students for college-level writing and reading.

The Writing and Reading Alignment Project is funded by an Improving Teacher Quality Grant, a federal program of the U.S. Department of Education distributed by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Teachers from 13 school corporations across Indiana will take part over the two years of the grant.

The project will pair university faculty directly with 11th- and 12th-grade English and language arts teachers and administrators during workshops and through an ongoing professional learning community. The goal is to help teachers examine their current instructional practices and goals for student learning and develop new strategies to promote skills in critical reading, evidence-based writing and discussion as expected in college-level coursework.

The project is divided into two cohorts. The first participants, all from the School City of Hammond, took part in a recent kickoff event and will continue the project this summer and fall. The second cohort, made up of 12 school districts in the south central region of Indiana, will participate in 2015.

WRAP is co-directed by Ada Simmons, formerly the director of the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration at the IU School of Education, and Christine Farris, professor in the IU Department of English. Ray Smith, clinical associate professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture and Language Education at the IU School of Education, will partner with Farris for content and professional development work with teachers.

"One of our goals is to introduce teachers to more strategies for working with both literary and non-literary texts of the type students will encounter in a variety of college disciplines," Farris said.

More comprehensive work begins in a few weeks. In July, the participants will come to the IU Bloomington campus for a four-day intensive workshop.  

"We plan to collaborate on the design of several issue-based units for reading and a sequence of writing assignments that ask students to analyze and argue in terms of the ideas and evidence in what they read,” Farris said.

Two times during the fall semester, when teachers are beginning to implement new strategies and curriculum, university faculty members will hold small group meetings with teachers. The teachers will share assignment design and student work and get feedback on how the new strategies may be working or should be revised.

Throughout the project, participants will have access to professional development material and other resources through an online community created specifically for the participating schools. The online site will allow teachers to seek answers to questions and contribute materials for others to use. After the project concludes following the fall semester, the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at the IU School of Education will conduct the evaluation.

The first cohort is composed of teachers from schools in the School City of Hammond district: Hammond High School, Morton Senior High School, Donald E. Gavit Middle/High School and George Rogers Clark Middle/High School. The second cohort involves 13 school corporations from southern Indiana: Barr Reeve Community School Corp., Bloomfield School Corp., Eastern Greene Community School Corp., Linton-Stockton School Corp., Loogootee Community School Corp., Mitchell Community Schools, MSD of Shakamak Schools, North Daviess Community Schools, Paoli Community Schools, Shoals Community School Corp., Spencer-Owen School Corp., Washington Community School Corp., and White River Valley School District.