Collaboration and data key to ensuring lasting change

At Riverbank (Calif.) High School, teachers across subject areas incorporate multiple Content Enhancement Routines into their daily instruction. Students learn strategies in both general education and resource classrooms. And scores on state competency tests have risen dramatically—more than 50 points in the first two years alone of the school’s extensive literacy improvement program.The now five-year-old program—based on the Strategic Instruction Model and following the Content Literacy Continuum framework—is the result of a team effort involving teachers, school and district administrators, and SIM Professional Developers.Among the challenges Riverbank faced when it began its literacy improvement process were large numbers of struggling students. Many among the predominantly Hispanic student population speak Spanish outside of academic settings yet must perform well in course work and on tests in English. “That makes the gains they are making even more incredible to me, because the students are doing what they’re doing in their second language,” says Jean Schumaker, retired associate director of the Center for Research on Learning. In launching the CLC initiative, the district looked at long-term goals as well as short-term needs. “We didn’t want this to be another one of the one-year or two-year flash-in-the-pan changes that comes in and goes away,” says Ron Costa, assistant superintendent for business and secondary educational services. Far from being a temporary fix, the Riverbank CLC initiative continues to gain strength and credibility through a collaborative approach that ensures teachers are involved in decision making. At the center of the collaboration is the school’s site literacy team, which principal Ken Geisick views as vital to long-term success. Integral to the process is a commitment to grounding decisions in data. “It’s starting to change the culture of the campus, so that when I leave and my VPs leave and the CLC team leaves, everything will still run” Geisick says. “It will change, it will morph, but it will certainly still be there.”

—First published in 30 x 30: Thirty Stories of Success, Hope, and Innovation, © 2008, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.