Adolescent Literacy Model for Striving Readers, Kentucky 2018


CTL has developed and tested its Adolescent Literacy Model (ALM) over the past decade, through multiple research projects, including Striving Readers and KDE Literacy Initiative Grant, as well as implementation in individual schools across the region. The purpose of the ALM is to develop student literacy so that middle and high school students 1) become better readers, and 2) are able to master content across the disciplines, based on enhanced reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Moreover, the ALM provides a school wide framework for improved student learning by addressing all aspects of instruction.

Implementation of the model involves a commitment to intensive professional learning and engagement in regular on-site and distance coaching on the part of teachers and administrators.

  • Minimum of 7 days engaged in formal Professional Learning over a two year
    period, and 26 days in job-embedded coaching over the same period of time
  • Leadership training for school administration and literacy leadership team
  • Resources and tools for school self-assessment of implementation of comprehensive literacy instruction

More about ALM

CTL’s Adolescent Literacy Model is a school-wide, comprehensive Professional Learning model for middle and high schools. It provides training, coaching, strategies, tools and processes to address the overall and specific literacy needs in schools today. It has been developed over a period of fifteen years and tested through external research projects where it has been shown to have positive impact on teacher practice, teacher and student self-efficacy, and student performance in reading in grades 6 and 9, as well as an increase in student motivation and grades in other content areas. 

The ALM is designed for customized implementation. Specific components of the model are combined to address the targeted needs of the school, determined in part by a self-assessment process using the ALM School Performance Guide. The overall goal is to support comprehensive literacy instruction where students are successful in reading and all other content areas, by applying literacy strategies to master new learning.

Specifically, the ALM advances:

  • Foundational instruction in English/Language Arts classes aligned with Kentucky
    Academic Standards
  • Content literacy, where literacy strategies are applied in all subjects to increase student engagement and deepen learning, aligned with Kentucky Academic Standards
  • Support for classroom interventions aimed at bringing struggling students to grade level
  • Integration of applications that support integration of technology into instruction
  • Leadership development, including training and support for principals and creation of a literacy leadership team to encourage and monitor literacy instructional improvement
  • A school instructional culture of high achievement based on literacy development

CTL’s expertise in Professional Learning translates easily into the school wide ALM. A multi-year effort, the model engages teachers in deep and significant training on content literacy best practices applied to any subject area, and on discipline-specific training. The latter answers for teachers and principals the question: How does student literacy development better prepare students to master content in mathematics, science, social studies, or arts and humanities?

In addition, the model provides a range of tools and processes to augment formal training and informal, job-embedded professional learning. Tools and processes include: a school performance guide that enables schools to self-assess their current status on the six research-based components of the ALM; a classroom observation tool for assessing fidelity of implementation; a sorting protocol for examining student work; and, a set of published guidebooks to support teachers and principals in implementing the model.

Leadership Capacity Building

ALM coaches work closely with middle and high school faculties in implementing the model. Summer institutes, full and half day training sessions throughout the year, on-site and distance coaching, and leadership seminars all support efforts to develop professional practice leading to increased student literacy. ALM coaches work closely with teachers initially while they develop the capability of school-based literacy leadership team and the principal, to assume responsibility for improved instruction. Over time, CTL staff applies a gradual release approach, so that they support coaches and principals more directly while key staff assumes responsibility for improved classroom practice through implementation of the ALM.


CTL’s ALM has demonstrated positive impact on teacher practice, teacher and student self-efficacy, and student performance in reading in grades 6 and 9, as well as increases in student motivation and achievement in other content areas. The building-wide focus on a culture of literacy that ALM creates has been transformative for many schools.

  • Over a 5-year period as part of a federal Striving Readers research study, the implementation of ALM resulted in increased teacher self-efficacy, defined as teachers’ belief that they can improve student learning, as compared with teachers in a set of matched schools. Research on teacher efficacy establishes a strong correlation with gains in student achievement.
  • Students in Striving Readers/ ALM middle and high schools also demonstrated improved performance in both reading and writing as measured by the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT). ALM helped close the gap in middle grades reading performance between Striving Readers/ ALM and matched schools, and resulted in slightly higher gains for high school students.
  • ALM also helped close the gap in middle grades writing performance between Striving Readers/ ALM and matched schools, and improved writing performance in Striving Readers/ALM high schools.
  • Three middle schools implementing CTL’s ALM over a three-year period 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.
  • A pilot study of CTL’s work in Foundational Literacy with English language arts teachers in three high-need rural Kentucky school districts as part of the federal Promise Neighborhoods planning grant revealed that CTL training deepened teachers’ understanding of literacy instruction, including the need to integrate the teaching of reading, writing, speaking and listening to boost student literacy.

Striving Readers Design

Year 1 # of Teachers Days Allocated
Summer Institute 2018 (Cohort 1) 20 3
Follow-up Training with staff 4
Literacy Team Development 4
Coaching (Combination of Face to Face and Virtual) 12
Consultant Support 3
Year 2 Institute Summer 2019 (Cohort 2) Additional 30 3
Year 1 Total   29
Year 2
Follow-up Training 4
Literacy Team Development 6
Coaching (Combination of Face to Face and Virtual) 11
Consultant Support 3
Sustainability Institute Summer 2020 (Cohort 3) Additional 20 3
Year 2 Total 27




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