Impact & Stories

Success Stories

Hanging the Moon on South Carolina Exit Exams

Dreher High School’s association with Reading Apprenticeship began with a single teacher whose students’ success was an inspiration to her colleagues and principal. Cindy Ryan’s ninth grade Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy students were all reading below grade level when they walked into her classroom. Many of them are in college now, and it is their younger brothers and sisters and cousins who are learning how to Think Aloud, Talk to the Text, and keep Metacognitive Logs—not just in Academic Literacy, but in all their classes.

In monthly cross-disciplinary meetings, Dreher teachers spend an hour or so debriefing the Reading Apprenticeship routine or strategy their group has been working on that month and planning for the month ahead. All teachers, in every discipline, participate. They share student work, compare disciplinary differences, and help each other troubleshoot. With the solid support of principal Jeanne Stiglbauer, this schoolwide Reading Apprenticeship focus means that Dreher students have benefited for several years now from embedded subject area literacy instruction—as called for by the Common Core State Standards, for example. Visitors to the school remark that they can hear the Reading Apprenticeship accent in students’ conversations about how they are understanding what they are reading.

One measure of students’ literacy success is their performance on the English language arts portion of the state exit exam, the HSAP. (See the following table.) Over the last three years, Dreher students have exceeded the state pass rate for every demographic subgroup.1, 2, 3 Of particular note is the pass rate of Dreher students who are eligible for subsidized meals. Students in this group typically represent the least-well-prepared of all subgroups. At Dreher, they now pass the test at a nearly identical rate as the school population overall. Dreher’s African American students (51 percent of students taking the test) have also made accelerated progress toward the school mean and have surpassed the state mean for all students in the past two years. The school’s pass rate for students classified as disabled is another substantial accomplishment: in three years’ time, these students’ pass rates have leapt from 39 to 70 percent.

Scores like these have been likened to “hanging the moon,” in the Dreher vernacular, but as Cindy Ryan reports, it’s not the test scores staff members are applauding: “We all see the difference in the children.”

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