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International Reading Association. (2008). Partnerships for imporving literacy in urban schools: Advanced reading development demonstration project. The Reading Teacher, 61(8), 674-680.

Author: International Reading Association

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The Advanced Reading Development Demonstration Project (ARDDP), created by The Chicago Community Trust in 2002, promotes district and university partnerships with the explicit goal of building capacity at the district and school level. Chicago Public Schools committed to the ARDDP effort to improve literacy within the district. Four universities were awarded funds through ARDDP and each implemented a different plan to increase "teachers' knowledge about and practices related to literacy teaching, learning, and assessment" (674). This article reveals the multi-faceted approach that the Illinois universities used to increase capacity for schools that volunteered to participate in the program. All universities shared information twice a month and an independent group evaluated their work and progress. The ARDDP was in place for five years.

The idea of university and district partnerships is not new; however, this project is impressive because of its link with one of the largest school districts in the United States and its diverse approach for building capacity within the schools' systems. Participating schools received funds for Lead Literacy Teachers (LLTs). Teachers' knowledge was increased by taking university courses and by pursuing literacy degrees. Unlike many university courses, the courses embedded within this program catered to the specific literacy needs of the teachers and schools. LLTs became literacy resources for other teachers within the building. School wide leadership teams were established to provide a consistent focus on and attention to the school's literacy program. ARDDP also provided opportunities for teachers to collaborate and develop their literacy knowledge through study groups, on-site professional development and through participation in professional organizations. All schools promoted professional dialogue by opening the doors to individual classrooms: Teachers began observing model lessons and classrooms within their own school and at schools throughout the district. Capacity building must be approached from many angles. Schools need literacy leaders to facilitate change and promote strong literacy practices within buildings. Also, educators must be immersed in literacy conversations in a collaborative environment: book clubs, classroom demonstrations and team/grade level meetings - all focused on student achievement.

Results of the ARDDP project are impressive, and yet also represent the need for sustained capacity building rather than basic structural changes, program adoption or even 1-2 year programs. Change takes time and this report helps to demonstrate the complexity and yet feasibility of improving literacy in urban schools through university partnerships. By the end of the fifth year, students' proficiency on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) at 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades (the only grades at which the ISAT has been assessed since 1999), showed a 20% increase compared to the first year of the program. This 20% increase is higher that other CPS elementary schools that did not participate in the ARDDP project. The lasting effects of the project are the most impressive. University partners chose promising schools to serve as site-based resources; they provide a model for other CPS schools to follow. Also, AARDD participants are currently developing "indicators" that will help other schools identify "areas of emphasis across time as schools develop the infrastructure to support their school improvement activities" (679).

Date Added: 03/03/2009

Attachment: Urban Literacy Partnershiops Urban schools.pdf

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