School-Wide Literacy Possible Key to High School Turnaround

On September 22, 2011, the National High School Center hosted a Webinar entitled “Using Literacy to Turn Around High Schools: Lessons Learned from Sue Szachowicz.” During the Webinar, Dr. Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School (Brockton, MA), spoke as a follow up to her May 2011 presentation at the Midwest High School SIG Conference.  Dr. Szachowicz attributed her school’s success to the purposeful and hard work initiated by the staff.  “Making change takes tenacity, not brilliance,” she said. Dr. Szachowicz discussed her school’s experiences in planning for and implementing school-wide literacy, which has resulted in dramatic academic gains in student achievement for both Reading and Math.  Her presentation included a detailing of her school’s four-step literacy improvement process, sample teacher development workshop materials, and student performance results. Dr. Szachowicz took questions from Webinar participants, answering inquiries about teacher resistance and logistical supports. Dr. Szachowicz asserted that her school achieved success by:
  1. Focusing on teacher training, and being sure to model good instructional practice during professional development.
  2. Training teachers in all content areas, so that literacy instruction can take place in every classroom. Aligned practices benefit students by allowing them to practice these skills throughout the day.
  3. Recognize the need for gradual transformations, starting with a focus on one area of literacy instruction and building upon practices over time. Teacher professional development should directly reflect the needs of the students of the school (using student data to determine these needs).
  4. School cannot wait for teacher buy-in. Results are what convince the staff.
At the end of the Webinar, Joseph Harris, Director of the National High School Center, discussed the possibility of forming communities of practice around literacy and professional development. If you are interested in hearing about future opportunities to collaborate around high school literacy, please take our brief needs-sensing survey. View Dr. Szachowitz’ presentation, audio, and handouts on the National High School Center’s Archived Webinar page.

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