Reading is the first step toward complete literacy.

Listed below are a series of quotes from Mike Schmoker in his book, Results Now, that I hope will provide some context behind our approach at OHS to teaching the Common Core State Standards which are highly focused on reading, writing, and thinking at high levels. Of course these standards include content learning in English, Math and Science as well, but a considerable focus in preparing students for post high school success is around high levels of literacy.

…Every profession rewards those who are highly competent at devising examples that exemplify one’s point, generalizing one’s conclusions…practices that come into play in every field…even the most brilliant scientists don’t advance in their field unless they can explain to relative non-specialists—in a grant proposal, for example.

…More than 90 percent of mid-career professionals recently cited the “need to write effectively” as a skill “of great importance” in their day-to-day work….The reward of disciplined writing is the most valuable job attribute of all: a mind equipped to think.”

“We’ve seen how literacy, rightly understood and acquired, changes lives. It affects our ability to think, to reason, to speak, and to govern. In this chapter, however, we will see that current practice is very much at odds with the best we know about helping students become authentically literate. Literacy instruction presents us with a supreme opportunity for the general improvement of schooling.

I have asked numerous audiences in dozens of states the following question: What two activities are least apt to occur during a typical class? In every case, after a quiet moment, come the answers, one then the other: Reading. Writing. 

Heads nod; there is some nervous laughter. I always ask the audience if something so counterintuitive could really be true. I get lots of uncomfortable acknowledgements. I then ask if this lack of reading and writing could possibly be good for kids. Lots of scattered responses: No!

I ask a few more related questions. What do we know about the nature of most reading assignments and class discussions? Are they typically lower order, focused on facts and recall; or higher order, focused on interpretive, open ended discussions? The answer is loud and immediate: Lower order.
I think this series of quotes are fundamentally true, but we have made substantial efforts to confront this reality and change it at our school. Literacy instruction presents us with a supreme opportunity to improve Oostburg High School. The only way that is going to actually happen is if reading and writing are in the process of going from “least likely to occur during the typical class” to “most likely to consume considerable time in classes.” And this reading, writing and thinking must be taught with clarity and rigorous expectations.