Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) is a network of public schools located in underserved communities of South Los Angeles. The Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) network has been working with Reading Apprenticeship to build academic literacy for their students since 2015 when ECS’ Inglewood Middle School began participating in a Reading Apprenticeship Writing Connections (RAWC) grant. The participating Inglewood teachers saw a remarkable 20% growth in student achievement on state standardized tests in just one year.
Based on this initial success, ECS developed a plan to enact Reading Apprenticeship in every classroom in all three ECS schools and ECS has sustained this successful intensive implementation of Reading Apprenticeship over the past several years.
This ongoing collaboration between ECS and Reading Apprenticeship has resulted in a new opportunity to build on prior success. In 2020 ECS and Reading Apprenticeship received a partnership grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and will be working together over the next several years to deepen and refine the practices key to strong implementation of the Reading Apprenticeship framework.
- Increase use of complex texts to support students’ transition to college and increase college retention rates
- Build on initial success to support school-wide Reading Apprenticeship practices in three ECS schools reaching all ECS students
- Develop Teacher Leader Reading Apprenticeship implementation capacity to serve all ECS students
Most ECS graduates – who are predominantly first and second-generation immigrant youth – are the first in their families to go to college. ECS students are persistent and resilient, most of them facing environmental challenges of neighborhoods with crime rates that are twice that of the national average, low levels of educational attainment, and high levels of poverty (with 86% of local youth qualifying for free lunches). Between 66% and 78% of their students identify as Hispanic, while 18% – 23% identify as African American.
ECS is a strong community and the alumni stay connected. When teachers and leaders invited a panel of ECS graduates who were current college students to reflect on their ECS education and current college experience, many alumni shared the challenges of reading in college. The level and quantity of text was often overwhelming.
ECS’s commitment to preparing students for success in college led ECS to identify a singular focus on disciplinary literacy. Based on the early success of Reading Apprenticeship at ECS-Inglewood, ECS selected Reading Apprenticeship as the instructional framework for all schools and classes. Reading Apprenticeship integrates academic and social emotional learning and aligns with their goals of identifying texts and tasks that are culturally relevant and provides equitable access and engagement for all learners.
Implementation of Reading Apprenticeship
In 2015 Danielle Kelsick, Inglewood’s Assistant Principal, now ECS’s Chief Academic Officer seized the opportunity to participate in the Reading Apprenticeship Writing Connections (RAWC) grant and participated in seven days of Reading Apprenticeship professional learning along with a team of three teachers.
The initial success observed after the first year of implementing Reading Apprenticeship at Inglewood encouraged ECS to deepen their commitment to Reading Apprenticeship professional learning over the following year. For 2019–20, ECS identified disciplinary literacy as a singular focus and invested in training all teachers and leaders in Reading Apprenticeship with the aim for students to use literacy as a tool for fulfilling their own sense of purpose and engage in innovative, real-world problem solving.
In order to produce conscious, critical thinkers capable of creating a more equitable and sustainable world, our students need to participate in text-based research, argumentation, and communication at ever-increasing levels of sophistication.
— Environmental Charter Schools Administrator
Over the following several years, ECS partnered with SLI on intensive implementation of Reading Apprenticeship school-wide across all three schools. ECS has currently engaged 120 teachers and leaders from all subjects are implementing the Reading Apprenticeship framework in their classrooms. Additionally, six educators completed the capacity building training, Leading for Literacy, and now meet regularly in professional learning communities with teachers. The goal is to include all teachers, staff, and administrators in Reading Apprenticeship professional learning.
Through its investment, ECS has committed to supporting building high-level literacy, academic success, and the social-emotional development of their students by weaving the Reading Apprenticeship classroom practices into the fabric of all three ECS schools.
This framework has the potential to bring staff together as an inquiry community of professionals who seek to learn collectively and individually. We have an opportunity to come to agreement on the core practices that lead to improved student outcomes in reading and writing.
— Environmental Charter Schools Staff Member
- 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
Inglewood’s initial commitment to Reading Apprenticeship provided an opportunistic randomized control trial since 50% of the school’s teachers participated. The participating Inglewood teachers saw 20% growth in student achievement on state standardized tests as compared with non-participating students.
ECS’s subsequent deep and ongoing commitment to implementing the Reading Apprenticeship model across all three schools has resulted in remarkable student progress in building literacy, learner disposition, and overall academic performance.
In 2019, 98.2% of ECHS graduates completed the A-G requirements to gain acceptance to a four-year university (compared to 45% in California). In that same year, 97% of ECHS graduates were admitted.
A successful partnership brings new opportunities to deepen and expand the Reading Apprenticeship model
Since ECS had a critical mass of teachers who are successfully implementing Reading Apprenticeship’s instructional framework, they were the ideal partner for a grant to further develop the model.
ECS and Reading Apprenticeship were awarded a 2020 Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant through their whole-child work for a two-year collaboration to focus specifically on Metacognitive Conversation and Extensive Reading as pathways to the development of curiosity and self-direction.
In 2020 ECS and Reading Apprenticeship will begin working together to refine Reading Apprenticeship instructional routines and practices already in place through co-designing and iteratively testing student-facing formative assessment tools.
This grant will allow ECS and Reading Apprenticeship to develop formative assessments that will include more robust, easy-to-use tools for students to self-monitor and for teachers to monitor student progress. These formative assessments will then be introduced to the faculties of all three ECS schools. The goal for these tools is to better reveal the thinking process to further develop support and deepening implementation of Reading Apprenticeship.
In addition, the grant will focus on identifying relevant, high-quality texts that reflect students and provide for equitable access and engagement of all learners and identities. In the last phase of this project we will focus on building leadership capacity to sustain these practices and integrate formative assessment routines into classrooms and professional learning communities.
Through our work on this project we seek to deepen our understanding of how enacting Metacognitive Conversation and Extensive Reading as schoolwide practices can support equitable, whole-child outcomes.
SLI and ECS are enthusiastic about collaborating on this project to refine Reading Apprenticeship practices that address both academic and social-emotional learning and build evidence and exemplars that work for students who are often furthest from opportunity. Our work with ECS is fueled by a shared commitment to equitable outcomes for all students, which is reflected in ECS’s powerful mission, vision and results.
ECS’s exemplary and unwavering commitment to equipping their students with the knowledge and skills to succeed—in college and beyond—is opening a new pathway of opportunities for many future students nationwide.