Penn Literacy Project

Penn HSThe Penn Literacy project was a multi-year project designed to increase instructional quality within the existing smaller learning communities structures at Penn High School and the Penn-Harris-Madison (Indiana) feeder middle schools. The comprehensive approach to school-wide literacy included integration of core literacy strategies across all content areas; teacher cadres who progress through professional development in stages; and development of internal leadership capacity of administrators, instructional coaches and key teacher leaders to sustain a whole-school approach to school-wide literacy and improved instruction. A unique facet of this project was vertical alignment of work from middle to high school through the inclusion of teachers and administrators from the three feeder middle schools in the professional development, coaching, and distance work with CTL.

Who benefits

Nearly 300 teachers, 12 administrators, and 40 teacher leaders were trained and supported in the Penn Literacy project. The middle and high schools combined serve approximately 6,000 students, all of whom now share a core set of strategies for reading, writing, speaking and listening across content areas in grades six to 12.


For the first time since Penn High School was established in the 1950’s, the school has been awarded four star status and is now in the top 25% of Indiana high schools, with the highest student achievement ever.

Over five years, the Penn High School graduation rate increased from 79.3% to 96%. In addition, 90% of students passed their end of course exams as part of the state assessment, and 55% earned college/Advanced Placement credit. Principal Steve Hope attributes “much of this success” to CTL’s ALM. The school’s English 10 assessment results, previously in the mid-80’s or below,  increased to 94%. Hope describes these as “huge gains,” which, “would not have happened without CTL.”

Over the course of three years of work with CTL, the high school also improved its overall rating by the state department of education from ‘C’ to ‘A’.

In addition, over the three-year period, the three feeder middle schools saw scores on Indiana’s Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) increase in reading, social studies and science. Two of the three schools also saw ISTEP scores increase in mathematics. One of the three, a school formerly rated a ‘D’ by the state department of education, showed dramatic increases in reading scores. All three middle schools now have an ‘A’ rating.


Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, Indiana
Penn High School
Discovery Middle School
Grissom Middle School
Schmucker Middle School


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