Why Literacy and Learning Centers Work: Stories from East St. Louis

You may know about East St. Louis, Illinois. Jonathan Kozol featured the district in his seminal book, Savage Inequalities which many educators read in college courses. Brutally capturing the cruel truth about the inequities of public education, East St. Louis was depicted as one of our most heartbreaking realities. Children in East St. Louis were not receiving the level of education that all children deserve. Fast forward decades later, there is a new administration and commitment to ensuring that the children in East St. Louis succeed. 

The Learning and Literacy Center model that I developed was implemented at the middle school and high school level at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year and continued during the 2015-2016 school year.

East Saint Louis is an urban district with historically under-performing schools and high poverty. The majority of adolescent students were significantly below grade level in reading. As we implemented the Learning and Literacy Center model in East St. Louis, we placed particular emphasis on differentiating reading materials, promoting skills in collaboration and student self- regulation. Through significant coaching and professional development, the results are exciting. At the two middle schools and high schools, student growth is evident through district tracking that includes NWEA, with double digit gains.

It is evident that our strategy of providing students the opportunity to practice literacy skills while developing content knowledge is working. Consistently incorporating a teacher-led center has proven to be a critical component of this success since many of the students need targeted skill instruction. These teacher-led centers create the much-needed instructional time to target specific skills for more individualized instruction. Click here to see a classroom in action.


To learn more about the Learning and Literacy model used in the East St. Louis School District –
and to discover how you can employ it in your own classroom – join me at a Reading2 Learn conference!