EMSC-VESID Committee


Jean C. Stevens



Adolescent Literacy in New York State


March 12, 2007


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Discussion


What additional information does the Board of Regents need to inform policy relating to strengthening adolescent literacy achievement across New York State?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Review of policy.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee on March 19, 2007.


Procedural History


Not applicable.


Background Information


To support the Regents P-16 action strategy to raise the learning standards to exceed global standards, Department staff is developing a statewide adolescent literacy plan. The attached report includes background information on the current state of adolescent literacy in New York State and provides a status report on current and future plans on addressing statewide adolescent literacy.




Staff recommends that the Regents review the attached report on adolescent literacy and identify any additional information they may need to support the planned review of the English Language Arts learning standards with a focus on prekindergarten through grade 12 literacy development.


Timetable for Implementation


Not applicable.






In October 2006, the Board of Regents approved its P-16 education reform strategy which includes Action 6 on raising the learning standards: “Raise the learning standards to exceed global standards to graduate all students ready for citizenship, work, and continued education. Align standards, assessments, curriculum, and instruction across P-16, emphasizing transitions between high school and college, and high school and the workforce.”  Department staff has been in dialogue with the New York Comprehensive Center to create a statewide adolescent literacy plan to support this action as well as the process for reviewing the State’s English Language Arts (ELA) learning standards. The following includes information on current literacy issues in New York, what SED is doing to address these issues, and proposed next steps.


I. Adolescent Literacy in New York State


For New York State students to be better prepared for success in school, citizenship, and the global workplace, SED needs to increase its efforts in the area of literacy achievement, focusing on grades 4-12.  Literacy incorporates elements of the four key ideas in the New York State English language arts learning standards: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. At a time when average literacy levels for American occupations are rising at a rapid rate, 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores show that 25% of NYS Grade 8 students are performing below basic level in reading (NAEP, 2005).


In Writing Next, a 2006 report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Graham and Perin articulate the necessity for improved student writing skills: “Writing well is not just an option for young people—it is a necessity. Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for participation in civic life and the economy” (Writing Next, 1). The Writing Next report also states, “Because the definition of literacy includes both reading and writing skills, poor proficiency should be recognized as an intrinsic part of the national literacy crisis” (Writing Next). 


Data from recent elementary and middle level ELA tests show that specific groups such as minority students and students with low socioeconomic status are not meeting the learning standards at a rate comparable to the State average. “Only about 54 percent of Black and about 57 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders, compared with 79 percent of White fourth graders, met the standards on the English language arts assessment for elementary-level students by scoring at or above Level 3” (Chapter 655 Report-Statewide Profile 2005). When comparing students in high need districts with students in low need districts, the percentage of students meeting proficiency is significantly lower in high need districts.


In his press release on the 2006 grades 3-8 ELA scores, Commissioner Mills stated, “Despite improvements in elementary school over the past several years, the grade 3-8 results show substantially lower achievement starting in the sixth grade. The neediest children require more support. The problem is literacy in the middle grades. These results demand improvement in curriculum, instruction, and professional development” (Commissioner Mills, Grades 3-8 Press Release).


Department staff recommend that a statewide literacy plan be developed to support closing the gap in literacy achievement along lines of income, race and ethnicity, language, and disability. All students reading below grade level require explicit, intensive instruction targeted to the required component skills for proficient reading and writing. “Research showsthat students who receive intensive, focused literacy instruction and tutoring will graduate from high school and attend college in significantly greater numbers than those not receiving such attention. Despite these findings, few middle or high schools have a comprehensive approach to teaching literacy across the curriculum” (Every Child a Graduate).


II. What NYSED Is Doing to Address Adolescent Literacy


To prepare for reviewing the NYS learning standards, with a focus on literacy across the content areas, Department staff has completed the following steps to ensure that all students are prepared for increased literacy demands in a global economy. The Department recognizes student gains through Reading First, and will extend research- based best practices into the statewide adolescent literacy plan, as appropriate.










III. Next Steps


SED will continue to partner with the District Superintendents, the New York City Department of Education, regional networks, higher education, USNY partners, the New York Comprehensive Center, NEIREL, leaders of professional associations, and educators from across the State, to ensure that New York State students meet the need for growing literacy demands in the 21st century. During the next year, SED will complete the following steps concerning adolescent literacy in New York State.





Works Cited

Biancarosa, Gina, and Catherine Snow.  Reading Next—A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy: A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.).Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005. 


Creating a Culture of Literacy: A Guide for Middle and High School Principals.  National Association of Secondary School Principals. Reston, Virginia: NASSP, 2005. <>.


Graham, Steve, and Dolores Perin. Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing

of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools: A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007.



Joftus, Scott. Every Child a Graduate: A Framework for an Excellent Education for all Middle and High School Students. Alliance for Excellent Education, 2002.


Marianne Perie, et al. The Nation's Report Card (NAEP): Reading. United States Department of Education, 2005.  



New York State Education Department. Chapter 655 Report: A Report to the Governor and the Legislature on the Educational Status of the State's Schools.  Albany: NYSED, 2006.



New York State Education Department. Grade 3-8 Tests for First Time Show Year-by-Year Trends in School Performance: Press Release. Albany: NYSED, 2006.    



New York State Education Department. P-16 Education: A Plan for Action. Albany: NYSED, 2006.



Persky, Hillary R, et al. The Nation's Report Card (NAEP): Writing. United States Department of Education, 2002.