Impact & Stories

Success Stories

Grass Roots Advice: It Will Grow

Trish Schade knows about grass roots and she has some advice. When she moved from California’s Merced Community College to Massachusetts’s Northern Essex Community College, back in 2007, her Reading Apprenticeship experience was fresh, and she was feeling bold.

Start an Interest Group

So she started a project to introduce a campus-wide focus on reading, with Reading Apprenticeship at the core—a SFIG. “Instead of just a FIG (Faculty Inquiry Group), limited to faculty,” Trish says, “we included staff as well—professional tutors, lab coordinators, a librarian.” She feels this was strategically important because it immediately increased the number of people who brought energy and commitment to the project, and literacy support to the students. The literacy group met monthly, tried out Reading Apprenticeship routines, presented what they were learning to other staff, and slowly grew. The Dean of Professional Development supported the SFIG by funding four instructors to attend a Reading Apprenticeship seminar at WestEd that summer. They came back inspired.

Jump on Opportunities for Institutional Integration

In 2009, an institutional opportunity to increase the impact of the SFIG’s work arose. NECC administrators, with the help of an Achieving the Dream grant, decided to create a “success” course for academically underprepared first-year students, and Trish was on the committee designing the course—Reading Apprenticeship became part of the curriculum. The College Success Seminar was a success. In 2011, 13 sections were offered. In 2012 there were 30. Retention rates also grew for this cohort of students who passed the course with grades A–C; new students in the Fall 2011 returned in the Spring of 2012 at a rate of 97.2 percent, as compared to the 72.9 percent retention rate for all students.

When NECC was named an Achieving the Dream Leader college during this period, another institutional opportunity appeared. The AtD coaches urged the college to expand implementation of its “success” approaches. As Trish reports, “The coaches pointed out that we were doing a lot of great strategies for incoming underprepared students, but we did not have much in place for the regular first-year gatekeeper type classes.” NECC administrators acted on the AtD suggestion. More faculty were supported to participate in literacy professional development, this time in the online Reading Apprenticeship 101 course. The SFIG morphed into the Transitions to Academic Success initiative, and the team was charged with sparking new attention to literacy in gateway courses. At this point, Trish says, “It was important to recruit respected and influential gateway faculty to participate in the team’s reading ‘think tank’ meetings.” And, she adds, by way of advice, “Invite them repeatedly and keep inviting. Once you get that energy and momentum going, others will join.”

Involve Faculty in Collecting Classroom Data

As the team grew, faculty members began to collect data in gateway courses they were teaching (courses like Anthropology 101, Biology 220, and Chemistry 111), comparing results in sections where they incorporated Reading Apprenticeship with those where they did not. The results, an average full letter-grade improvement, prompted the administration to approve formal, longitudinal data collection, beginning in 2013—institutional recognition that something significant is going on.

The faculty-driven process at NECC was strengthened by finding ways to connect with larger institutional programs, such as the success course and AtD. “Reading Apprenticeship is a natural fit,” Trish notes, “if a college is creating or beefing up an existing FYE (First-Year Experience) program. It’s also a natural for the Integrated Reading and Writing and the Accelerated Learning initiatives bubbling up all over.”

One last thing Trish wants to let faculty at other colleges know: “This kind of change takes time to nurture, but most faculty want to help students read in their discipline, and some will be willing and hungry to incorporate Reading Apprenticeship strategies into their classes. The message should be that if enough folks who are interested start implementing Reading Apprenticeship strategies, if they share their results, and if they have support and professional development, it will grow.”

A Sample of Literacy Data Collected by NECC Faculty

Faculty-Collected Data Treatment Student Outcomes
ALL Courses Reading Apprenticeship strategies Grades jumped an average of 10 points (or one letter grade)
Business 101 Reading Response Journal (4 classes) Treatment students’ grade average 82% vs. 68%
Dental Assisting 101 Reading Journals (all classes for 3 years) Pass rate on state boards 100% last 2 years
Anthropology 101 Talking to the Text (4 classes) Treatment students twice as likely to draw inferences from reading assignment
Biology 115 Double-Entry Journal (2 classes) Treatment students’ grade average 86% vs. 74%
Chemistry 111 Reading Journals (all classes) Higher-level student questions and increased engagement in discussion

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