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Dixon High School Cites Role of Reading Apprenticeship in Schoolwide Literacy Gains

Dixon High School is an ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse school in California’s agricultural Central Valley. In the school’s successful application for recognition as a “California Distinguished School,” staff at Dixon High cited the core, long-term role of Reading Apprenticeship in improving teacher practice and student outcomes:

“Before Dixon High School began implementing the Reading Apprenticeship model, all students, but particularly Latino and Economically Disadvantaged students, were underperforming. [In 2000, the school was designated “underperforming” by the state.] While Reading Apprenticeship is not the only program Dixon High School has implemented over the last decade, it is the most far-reaching in terms of duration and student exposure. Reading Apprenticeship permeates our academic curriculum, from humanities courses to the electives. Most teachers, regardless of field, see themselves as reading teachers and work diligently to help their students access complex and pertinent texts….

“For nearly the past decade, Reading Apprenticeship has enabled Dixon High School students to become more proficient and confident readers throughout their studies.”

Evidence from criterion-referenced and standardized tests supports the Distinguished Schools award. Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) scores, for example, weigh in at almost triple the increase expected from a year of instruction. In 2009–2010, Dixon students gained 2.9 points compared with an expected 1.0 point. On the California Standards Test for English Language Arts, Dixon students’ scores have increased steadily, and achievement gaps are closing. As shown in the graph below, over the period 2007–2010, all students’ scores increased by 31 percent, scores for Latino students increased by 46 percent, and scores for low-income students increased by 92 percent. (Earlier standardized score gains at Dixon are reported in a three-year research study funded by The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.)

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Reading Apprenticeship in a Dixon High Honors U.S. History Classroom

Honors U.S. History (5:21)

Many of the students in Gayle Cribb’s honors class are English learners or former English learners. All of them do the work of historians by grappling with primary sources, making text-based arguments, and helping each other think through reading challenges.

From the time she started teaching Honors U.S. History at Dixon High School, Gayle Cribb worked to increase the diversity of the class. As a result of her efforts, enrollment of Latino students rose dramatically. One-fourth of the students in the 11th grade honors class shown in this video are former English learners. And while most students in the class score at the two highest levels on the California Standards Test of English Language Arts, scores range from Basic to Advanced.

The lesson here was filmed in late March, during a weeklong unit on the Japanese American internment. Focusing on the question of the constitutionality of the internment, students read several primary source documents, including the U.S. Constitution; opinions from Korematsu vs. United States, a 1944 Supreme Court case challenging the internment; and U.S. Department of Justice memos.

As students read, Gayle uses Reading Apprenticeship strategies to engage them in ongoing small group and whole class conversations about their reading and thinking processes. Through these discourse routines, Gayle’s students practice historical reading and thinking skills, gain stamina for challenging reading, and acquire deep knowledge of the history content.

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