A shining example of sustained success in building high-level literacy schoolwide
Fordson High School in Dearborn, MI, home to the largest Arabic speaking population outside the Middle East, has accomplished something that few schools achieve – namely sustaining Reading Apprenticeship for a decade. Fordson, housed in a building constructed by Henry Ford in 1928, serves 2,782 students, 42% of whom are classified as English Learners. Twenty-six percent of these are new arrivals from countries like Yemen, Iraq, and Syria and 87% are eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch. Fordson began their investment in supporting Reading Apprenticeship implementation in 2010 as participants in the RAISE grant and has continued with steady support for sustaining initial success through the years.
Fordson’s commitment to the Reading Apprenticeship model has paid off for its students, particularly English learners. In the 2016-17 academic year students in sheltered Reading Apprenticeship classrooms saw average gains on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) significantly above EL students in non-Reading Apprenticeship classrooms.
- Supporting English learners in achieving high-level literacy
- Creating a safe learning environment for immigrant students to learn English and explore a new culture and academic system
- Sustaining and building on initial success with continued teacher professional learning and Teacher Leaders
- Building a culture of literacy; improving reading rates for all students
Implementing Reading Apprenticeship
Fordson was the first million-dollar high school built in the United States. Henry Ford built the school to educate the children of the diverse community of his employees. For over 90 years Fordson has been a safe haven for the diverse immigrant community of the Detroit Metropolitan area—European, African, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern families.
Fordson’s decade-long investment in Reading Apprenticeship has benefited all of its students, particularly those who are newly immigrated and must contend with the cultural and academic demands of a new country. Fordson offers these students the additional support of “sheltered” instruction in English Language Arts taught by seasoned Reading Apprenticeship teachers who are Arabic speakers.
This class is a two-hour, dual-language block that utilizes the Reading Apprenticeship instructional framework to create a safe classroom setting where teachers and students can work together to build literacy and language learning. Use of Arabic, written or spoken, is an option anytime it is needed to promote learning. Students often annotate texts in two languages, working in pairs and small groups to support one another using Reading Apprenticeship metacognition routines for collaboration.
In this learning community, students readily share their thinking, their confusions, and their moments of understanding, acting as resources for one another. The focus here is on the Social and Personal dimensions that support Reading Apprenticeship’s interactive instructional framework. Creating safe learning environments where students see themselves as successful learners support the framework’s Cognitive and Knowledge-Building dimensions.
Deepening and sustaining Reading Apprenticeship through steady work
Over the past ten years Fordson High School has exemplified steady work in transforming instruction to build academic literacy. Today, Fordson serves as a model school, hosting Learning Tours for teachers, schools and districts nationwide to see Reading Apprenticeship in action.
How exactly does Fordson sustain Reading Apprenticeship as a core practice?
Fordson’s approach to scaling up Reading Apprenticeship focuses on integrating the framework and routines into all regular subject-area classrooms and therefore doesn’t require special scheduling.
Fordson has also continued to regularly seize opportunities to participate in ongoing Reading Apprenticeship professional development.
Another important factor is that Fordson’s administrators have consistently invested in internal coaching that helps teachers integrate disciplinary literacy routines into their classrooms. Amy Keith-Wardlow, a full-time Literacy Coordinator who has coached over 500 teachers in Reading Apprenticeship implementation, was instrumental in bringing Reading Apprenticeship to Fordson. She coaches and supervises Fordson teachers throughout the process of implementation, ensuring its ongoing success. She is constantly in classrooms and asking questions that provoke teachers to consider how they can move from Reading Apprenticeship as isolated strategies to Reading Apprenticeship as an essential part of classroom life.
Both the school’s and the district’s administrators have also committed to Reading Apprenticeship. They demonstrate how it connects and advances myriad initiatives to improve student learning.
Mature Reading Apprenticeship Classrooms
Reading Apprenticeship supports coherence by offering professional development that enables teachers to integrate core literacy routines into their existing curricula. The Fordson High School classrooms illustrate this principle. They also give us a glimpse at what the framework in action looks like in mature Reading Apprenticeship classrooms.
In teacher Julie Jamieson’s 10th grade English class, Jamieson selected two highly accessible sources – Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, historical photographs of lynchings—to scaffold her students’ understanding of inference and metaphor in To Kill a Mockingbird. Throughout the class, students worked collaboratively to interpret these texts. Ms. Jamieson asked metacognitive and cognitive questions: “Why do you think that?” “What does her voice add?”
In Sanaa Ayoub’s 11th Grade psychology class, Ayoub extended students’ understand of how the brain works by having them read an article for researchers related to a high-interest topic. Students individually and collaboratively read about new experimental evidence related to the effects of marijuana on adolescent brains. Together students answered their guiding inquiry question, “Should marijuana be federally legalized?” Ms. Ayoub modeled her own practice as a reader of psychology, noting terms she didn’t understand, sharing her how she chunked and analyzed words, pointing out features of research articles. By the end of the class, students had both identified the strongest evidence and added to their reading strategies list.
A model that brings significant gains for English learners
In sheltered classrooms where Reading Apprenticeship is being implemented with fidelity, students are showing amazing growth. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the average gains on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) were 64 points and 13 points on the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) test. By contrast, in classrooms that were not implementing Reading Apprenticeship with fidelity, overall average growth on the EBRW of the SAT was 38 points and no average growth was noted for the WIDA. Overall, the highest average gains for EL students at Fordson were made in classrooms fully implementing Reading Apprenticeship’s instructional framework, demonstrating the power of the model to transform the educational experiences of those learning English.
- 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
Reading Apprenticeship classrooms at Fordson High School continue the tradition of fostering a sense of community in which academic excellence is both valued and achievable.
Building a culture of support among educators brings sustainable success
Today, Fordson continues with a strong commitment to sustaining Reading Apprenticeship schoolwide with district-level Title II funding. Over 100 of Fordson’s teachers have participated in Reading Apprenticeship professional development and all incoming new teachers participate in Reading Apprenticeship professional development in the summer prior to their first semester teaching at Fordson. These teachers are then supported with ongoing Teacher Leader push-ins to their classrooms.
Fordson also continues to support teachers in the completion of the Reading Apprenticeship Consultant in Training program. Fordson will soon have a total of six national facilitators for Reading Apprenticeship, the highest number from a single district anywhere in the country.
-Amy Keith Wardlow
The ongoing work of Fordson’s administrators, faculty, and staff provide us with an excellent example for sustained success in implementing Reading Apprenticeship.
Fordson’s graduation rate is a remarkable 94%, well above the state level. Student growth is clearly seen in the Lexile measures which regularly increase between 200-400 points a year. Their 2020 senior class has seen an average 3.5 grade level increase in Lexile points. Even more impressive, their 10th grade class Lexile rate recently increased 2.1% in just one academic year.
Fordson exemplifies the kind of instructional transformation and improved student outcomes that can be accomplished when a school commits to long-term, school-wide Reading Apprenticeship implementation.