Language, Literacy, and Leadership Project

To be successful in high school and prepared for the rigors of college, teachers need to support students to become independent learners in all disciplines. That is, students should know how to read and persist through challenging texts, synthesize ideas, and ask and answer questions frequently. 

Traditionally, teachers have been the conveyers of knowledge, largely by lecturing and providing notes. However, through research, we know that people learn best by engaging in the work: reading, writing, thinking, and discussing.  

The NCS Language, Literacy, and Leadership Project (L3) supports schools and teachers to make the shift towards facilitating increased student engagement in the classroom. This ultimately results in students who are taking ownership of their learning and becoming college ready. 

The L3 work is based on two main bodies of work: the WestEd Reading Apprenticeship Framework and Dr. Aida Walqui’s research and practical application. Reading Apprenticeship is a research-based framework created by West Ed that has shown to have a positive impact on student persistence and increased GPAs. Reading Apprenticeship makes learning from text a central goal in the classroom. NCS utilizes the Framework to build teachers’ understanding of literacy and language development. The ultimate goal is for students to hone their reading and writing skills and engage deeply in disciplinary discourse. Additionally, NCS draws from the expertise of Dr. Walqui, who is the Director of Teacher Professional Development at WestEd. Her work supports teachers’ learning about how students develop language and the link between language and learning. Using these two bodies of work, L3 transforms students’ classroom experiences. 

Vision for Teaching and Learning
L3 is not a rigid set of rules, worksheets, or strategies. Rather, it is an approach to teaching and learning that is built on a strong foundation of best practices in education. It can be used with any subject—from math to English to science—and with all grades and ability levels. As the school year progresses, teachers introduce new concepts and more difficult work, scaffolding students’ learning with social and cognitive supports.

L3 builds teacher capacity to create classrooms where:

  • Students use Metacognition: Students engage in reading as a problem-solving process in which they actively seek understanding, build knowledge, and employ strategies when their comprehension breaks down.
  • Students are Resources: Teachers create opportunities for students to serve as resources for one another to learn from and better understand complex texts. 
  • Students are Active Agents:  Students are expected to be active agents in their learning. Teachers support students by modeling disciplinary ways of reading and writing so that students can increasingly engage with challenging texts and sophisticated content on their own and with their peers.

L3 in NCS Schools
Over the past several years, NCS has worked with Instructional Leadership Teams in schools to identify targeted areas of instruction for classrooms. Year after year, the majority of schools have chosen target areas focused on improving students’ literacy skills. NCS responded by creating L3.

We know from research that increasing professional capacity in schools is a necessary condition for increasing student outcomes at scale. Thus, NCS offers multiple professional development opportunities for L3 teachers in our partner schools to learn from experts in the field and interact with each other. The NCS Literacy Coaches design, coordinate, and facilitate the following activities:

  • Training in WestEd’s Reading Apprenticeship Framework
    L3 teachers engage in initial training to establish a foundation for this work through experiential learning. Teachers learn instructional tools to engage students in disciplinary learning and, ultimately, to transfer the heavy cognitive lifting back to students.
  • Cross-school Collaborative Sessions
    L3 teachers participate in a professional learning community to share successes, problem-solve challenges, and build on their knowledge from experts like Dr. Aida Walqui and Dr. Catherine Snow.
  • Guided Visits
    L3 teachers visit partner schools to explore how practices are being implemented in the classroom, talk about what they observe, and how they can incorporate these ideas in their own classrooms.
  • On-site Coaching
    NCS Literacy Coaches facilitate ongoing individual and small group coaching. Coaches support teachers to develop their L3 practices including lesson planning, observing instruction, and reflecting.
  • Teacher Leadership Development
    NCS Literacy Coaches provide L3 teacher leaders with supports to design and facilitate professional learning for a broader set of colleagues within their schools.
  • Ongoing Communication with School Administrators
    NCS Literacy Coaches work in conjunction with school principals and assistant principals to develop a vision for L3 work and to support the literacy goals of the school.

Literacy is a human right. It begins with the development of language and should evolve toward the capacities to read, write, and speak fluently. It also means students should think critically, develop, and evaluate ideas using sound reason and evidence. L3 focuses on students in our partner schools achieving this level of literacy. The ultimate goal is that students will independently guide their own learning—an essential skill for college success, democratic participation, and for understanding and shaping our world.