Current Work

Adolescent Literacy

Academic Language Development

Addressing a concern raised by Boston Public Schools (BPS) in 2005, SERP has been focused for nearly a decade on ways to support the development of academic language— also known as "the language of school." SERP's collaboration with BPS led to the development of a simple interdisciplinary instructional intervention for middle schools to better prepare students for high school texts. The program, Word Generation, was developed in collaboration with faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and is now used by schools in all fifty states and more than fifty countries. Word Generation has been extended downward to 4th and 5th grades and content units for middle grades social studies and science have been developed. An assessment of academic language knowledge has been developed and validated by HGSE faculty.

Lead Researcher: Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education

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Student-level Reading Profiles

At the start of the SERP partnership, Boston Public Schools leaders expressed a frustration with middle grades reading assessments: available assessments could either be administered to an entire class with results reported that were inadequately detailed, or detail could be provided with a one-on-one assessment that was resource prohibitive. SERP collaborated with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop the RISE (Reading Inventory and Scholastic Evaluation) assessment. The RISE is designed to be administered in under 60 minutes and to provide detailed profiles not typically available with class-administered standardized tests.

Lead Researcher: John Sabatini, Educational Testing Service

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Struggling Readers

RISE scores identified a substantial number of middle school students (1/4 to 1/3 in some schools) who still struggle with basic reading skills. The Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI) was designed in collaboration with Boston area districts to allow students to meet credit requirements for English courses at the same time that it provides specialized and comprehensive remediation. Materials are highly engaging and appeal to the emerging capacity of adolescents to think deeply about important social issues.

Lead Researcher: Lowry Hemphill, Wheelock College

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Catalyzing Comprehension through Discussion and Debate

A grant awarded to SERP by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) as part of the Reading for Understanding Initiative has allowed a SERP team that includes researchers from Harvard University, Wheelock College, Stanford University, and Boston University, to develop measurement instruments and conduct research on the development of perspective taking, critical reasoning, and academic language for students in grades 4-8, and to study the independent contribution of each factor to reading comprehension. Working with practitioners in districts from Massachusetts, Maryland, and California, the team developed or extended instructional programs and programs of professional development. The team is evaluating the programs’ impact on the hypothesized contributors for a population of students in grades 4-8.

Co-investigators: Suzanne Donovan, SERP; Catherine Snow, James Kim, Stephanie Jones, Robert Selman, Paola Uccelli, Kurt Fischer, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Jonathan Osborne, Stanford University; Lowry Hemphill, Wheelock College

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Content-area Literacy

As part of the Catalyzing Comprehension through Discussion and Debate (CCDD) project, SERP has developed social studies and science curriculum that is related to content typically covered in middle school. The curriculum provides opportunities to develop the literacy skills associated with content-area instruction. All materials are especially dynamic and engaging, in the tradition of Word Generation.

Lead Researcher: Catherine Snow

Team members from the Boston Field Site were joined by collaborators from the University of Michigan to construct and pilot a set of instruments for eliciting teacher and student perceptions of literacy roles, attitudes, and practices in and out of school—the Content-area Literacy Survey (CALS).

Lead Researchers: Catherine Snow, Harvard University; Elizabeth Moje, University of Michigan

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Organizational Coherence

Building Coherence to Sustain Reforms

Beginning in 2007, SERP has collaborated with faculty and doctoral students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and leaders from the Boston Public Schools to develop an assessment of schools’ internal coherence, and protocols to build coherence in the interest of improving instruction and sustaining reforms.

The Internal Coherence Assessment and Protocol (ICAP) is designed to provide school leadership, and potentially system-level supervisors, with a structured body of information about a school’s capacity on each of the three dimensions of Internal Coherence: leadership focused on the support for instructional practice; whole school and team-level organizational structures and processes; and individual and collective efficacy beliefs. ICAP data profiles are designed to locate schools’ existing capacity on a developmental rubric along the various dimensions of the model. Professional development activities are suggested as next steps for each school guided by the provisional causal order underlying the work.

Lead researcher: Richard Elmore, Harvard Graduate School of Education

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