In 2006 several counties in Michigan began implementing Reading Apprenticeship and continued sustaining successes through the ongoing development of leadership in partnership with a dedicated Reading Apprenticeship team. Beginning in 2010 Reading Apprenticeship grant funds allowed for a wide dissemination of Reading Apprenticeship throughout the state. Since then, funds from five federal grants and foundations, totaling an investment of over $5.3 Million, have supported more than 2,200 educators and 340,760 students in 53 counties in Michigan. Today, from Dearborn to Petoskey, Reading Apprenticeship is giving Michigan teachers the support, knowledge, and practice they need to help middle and high school students build the high-level literacy they need for success in middle and high school, college, and their careers.
- Facilitate broad implementation of Reading Apprenticeship within and across schools, and districts
- Sustain local support for Teacher Leaders and teacher learning communities
- Ensure that Teacher Leaders are not stretched too thinly in terms of planning, facilitation, and their own classes
- Inspiring teachers to continue deepening practice after Reading Apprenticeship professional learning
- Cultivating support for and disseminating knowledge about the Reading Apprenticeship approach at the administrative level
Implementation of Reading Apprenticeship
Facilitating broad implementation with local support
What makes for sustainable Reading Apprenticeship professional learning at scale? Two counties in Michigan were the first in the state to discover the answer to this question and adopt a model that works. These counties led the way for other counties and districts across the state to follow in their footsteps as they began to witness the success of Reading Apprenticeship in strengthening student literacy and academic performance.
In 2005 Washtenaw leaders first acknowledged the elephant in classrooms across their county’s middle and high schools: many students weren’t learning because they couldn’t read their textbooks. County leaders saw it as an equity issue. Lexile data from a sampling of 9th graders showed that nearly half of them couldn’t understand their history textbook. A quarter couldn’t make sense of the science texts.
After a year-long process of exploring available approaches, the county selected Reading Apprenticeship to meet the need it had identified for subject area-specific literacy professional development. In 2006, 24 Washtenaw County teachers – one pair from each high school – were trained in Reading Apprenticeship as a core implementation group.
A trusted approach to building student success
Reading Apprenticeship is a model of teacher professional learning that helps teachers shift their practice in ways that result in deeper student learning, achievement and engagement. It integrates four dimensions of learning—social, personal, cognitive, and knowledge-building—and ties them all together with metacognitive conversation. Students and teachers learn text-based inquiry and collaboration routines which help create safe classroom environments and establish cultures of positive learning.
The next year, neighboring Livingston County merged their literacy initiatives under the Reading Apprenticeship umbrella. By 2010, 826 Washtenaw and 595 Livingston teachers in grades 4–12 had participated in Reading Apprenticeship professional development. But that was only the beginning of the story.
Teacher leaders and learning communities sustain and deepen gains
From the very beginning of Reading Apprenticeship implementation, the counties instituted a plan to include a new level of local support to sustain and deepen teachers’ practice. Rather than letting teachers’ initial enthusiasm for what they were learning tail off in the midst of other demands, two teachers from each school site were selected to participate in “Teacher Leader” professional development to keep the learning going. In addition, the Teacher Leaders themselves met together monthly to share their leadership experiences and deepening their understanding of Reading Apprenticeship in a group facilitated by a county-level Reading Apprenticeship expert.
These Teacher Leaders also conducted school-based meetings with Reading Apprenticeship-trained colleagues on a regular basis to exchange classroom experiences, problem-solve, and plan to support ongoing implementation.
In a 2008 survey, teachers confirmed that Teacher Leaders and the on-site teacher meetings they facilitated filled an important role. Ninety-seven percent of teachers agreed that “Our building-level Reading Apprenticeship meetings helped to sustain the Reading Apprenticeship work amid the numerous challenges of trying something new.”
“It has been incredibly helpful to me to have time to collaborate, share successes and failures, and access the collective “brain” of my colleagues.”
– High School Teacher Consultant
This network of professionals was key for promoting and sustaining the schools’ literacy work. As one Teacher Leader put it, “This [teacher leader] group has kept me on the cutting edge of continuous learning about Reading Apprenticeship. At every meeting I have learned new things to strengthen my Reading Apprenticeship classroom usage as well as lead building- and district-level PD.”
Districts and counties observed that once the Reading Apprenticeship professional learning began to take hold, teachers often became passionate advocates for the work, creating a ripple effect of enthusiasm and forging true professional learning communities. Pam Ciganick, Coordinator of Professional Learning for the Charlevoix-Emmet ISD in Michigan’s northern lower peninsula has played a critical role in bringing Reading Apprenticeship to hundreds of teachers in this rural section of the state. Her story of a two-day Reading Apprenticeship institute that took place one snowy March reveals exactly this kind of dedication to Reading Apprenticeship professional learning:
Teachers in this area will forever be in my memory: at the time of a two-day institute in March a heavy snowstorm forced all schools in the area to close. North Central Michigan College, our venue was closed, though they opened the building where our professional development was to take place. Participants were from all over the upper section of the state. There was no way to reschedule the training, so we shoveled and opened the doors. To my amazement, 93% of participants showed up! Some arrived on snowmobiles. Everyone who facilitates the training in this section of the state comments on how amazing these teachers are in terms of their engagement, level of participation, and gratitude.
Chelsea School District in Washtenaw county provides another clear example of the power of having professional development accompanied by this level of local support.
Since 2006, the Chelsea district has trained over 90 percent of its core content and special education teachers in grades 5–12 in Reading Apprenticeship. In neighboring Livingston County, superintendents attended a series of workshops which included classroom visits and building administrators participated in the professional development along with their teachers and became strong and steady supporters of the work.
Recognizing the importance of teacher meetings and Teacher Leaders, some administrators increased the amount of Teacher Leader release time in step with the increasing number of teachers trained in Reading Apprenticeship. Starting from a single release period per month, which quickly increased to a half-day per month, the now full-time position provides Reading Apprenticeship-based literacy support for all secondary teachers.
“[Reading Apprenticeship] was the most organized and informational learning I have experienced. My teachers are extremely excited and engaged in the training. Their enthusiasm encouraged 12 more teachers to apply for the training in August. It has also shown me the value of peer to peer observation and collaboration which I will put money behind. My goal is sustainability.”
Michigan’s ongoing and deep commitment to Reading Apprenticeship has resulted in remarkable improvements in student literacy rates. The following graph, for example, illustrates the difference in average median growth for the Degrees of Reading Power Assessment (DRP) norming population to all classrooms in Washtenaw County that participated in Reading Apprenticeship from 2006-2007. The red lines represent the average median growth in the norming population for indicated grade levels, with the blue bars indicating the growth in median scores for students in Reading Apprenticeship classrooms.
At Chelsea High School, the effectiveness of the sustained model of teacher learning is reflected in students’ scores on the Degrees of Reading Power assessment. On the DRP test, in which 1 DRP unit of growth per year is the norm, Chelsea students gained 3 DRP units in the first year of testing and 5.5 units on the most recent test. Special education students have shown even more dramatic growth.
Impressive rate of growth for at-risk student population
County schools have seen remarkable academic and literacy growth in student population identified as at-risk in Reading Apprenticeship classrooms. A quasi-experimental, mixed method study in Washtenaw County revealed rate of growth effect sizes for students considered at-risk that were equal to non at-risk student populations.
A 2007-2008 evaluation compared the performance of Special Ed, at-risk, Free/Reduced Lunch, and Title 1 populations to all other in Reading Apprenticeship classrooms. This study revealed large effect sizes for students identified as at-risk of reading failure and for students receiving Title 1 services with moderate effects for Free/Reduced Lunch populations and for students receiving Special Education services. These gains are all the more impressive given that at the time of evaluation Reading Apprenticeship had undergone just one year of implementation.
Reading Apprenticeship is rated “strong” in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) evidence rating system and meets What Works Clearinghouse standards.
Multiple studies show that Reading Apprenticeship produces:
- Standardized test scores over a year ahead of control students
- Significant impact on students’ reading comprehension scores – up to 63% improvement
- Substantial improvement in students’ grade point average in core academic classes
- Positive shifts in students’ identities as readers, problem-solvers and independent learners
- Statistically significant impact on student literacy in science classes
Passing the model along to other states
The early lessons from Michigan counties such as Washtenaw and Livingston—to facilitate broad implementation of Reading Apprenticeship within and across schools and to sustain local support for Teacher Leaders and teacher learning communities—were subsequently built into the design of a national scale-up of Reading Apprenticeship professional development, the “RAISE” and “iRAISE” projects (2010-2015): Reading Apprenticeship Improving Secondary Education, and Internet-Based Reading Apprenticeship Improving Science Education, respectively. The U.S. Department of Education funded the scale-up along with a randomized controlled study to document results.
The RAISE project brought Reading Apprenticeship to more counties and districts in Michigan, in addition to 4 other states, reaching a total of 1,964 teachers and 631,535 students in 274 schools.
Research shows that the RAISE Project improved teachers’ ability to strengthen students’ reading of complex texts in science, history, and English classes — a key solution to removing barriers to college and career readiness.
Subsequent to RAISE and iRAISE, Michigan participated in SEED grants, known as Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections (RAWC) and Reading Apprenticeship Across the Disciplines (RAAD) from 2013 to 2018. Today, Michigan is participating in the ongoing SETDI (Supporting Effective Teaching with Disciplinary Inquiry) grant project through and expanding Reading Apprenticeship implementation statewide, including a focus on more rural areas.
In addition to pursuing grant funds for Reading Apprenticeship, over the past decade many individual Michigan districts and schools have independently implemented Reading Apprenticeship.
Michigan’s deep, broad, and long-term commitment to the implementation of Reading Apprenticeship offers an excellent example of what can be achieved when leadership engages in systemic and sustained efforts.
“This year, each one of my staff members and I had a Student Growth Goal that focused on improving student literacy using the STAR Reading Test. We wrote goals which stated that all of our students would achieve a 35 or higher Student Growth Percentile in reading.
I am proud to say that 79% of the 67 students we have tested so far have achieved that goal which is based on the national Student Growth Percentile. Even though it’s not the 100% we were striving for, I am still very proud of my students and staff and I attribute that success to Reading Apprenticeship.”
– Dearborn, MI school administrator
As one Michigan teacher put it, there’s no going back: “The way I approach teaching has changed – I’m more mindful of the important task of creating independent readers of complex texts, and how to achieve that goal. It is helping me get the ownership of learning back into the students’ hands – where it belongs. It is helping me realize the value in helping students learn. Reading Apprenticeship is an authentic tool and not just a professional development activity that will not last. My teaching cannot and will not go back.”