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Preuss Model School: Schoolwide Literacy Model

Secondary Literacy Demonstration Site for Preuss Model School

The Preuss School UCSD is located at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and serves students in grades 6-10. In 2002-03, its fourth year of operation, the school's enrollment grew to 640 students. An additional 100 students are anticipated next year. The school is proud to ensure that students receive complete preparation to be eligible for admission to a four-year university.

All high school students at Preuss are enrolled in University of California a-g courses. All students at Preuss are enrolled in the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) each year they attend the school. This advisory program teaches students study skills and exposes them to the college environment beginning in grade six.

Preuss has a strong instructional program that focuses on a liberal arts curriculum. Drawing from the most innovative of schemes in secondary education, teachers develop courses that meet or exceed district and state standards. Academic rigor and teaching methods are monitored and enhanced by means of weekly professional development meetings. Small classes, tutors for each course, an extended school day, and an extended school year are offered to keep to a minimum the achievement gaps that can occur between upper and lower socioeconomic groups. In this ethnically diverse school, 100 percent of the students are identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged and 12 percent are English learners.

Parent involvement and community involvement are essential. Students' families commit to 15 hours of volunteer activities per year. The active Parent Council at Preuss holds monthly meetings during which parent forums and parent education activities are organized. The Parent Council also contributes time and talent for the educational good of the children. Community members provide individual attention to students on an ongoing basis. The school also works with organizations in the community; for example, special programs at UCSD enlist university students as tutors for Preuss students, the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club provides ongoing support to the school, and Scripps Hospital has provided medical supplies, staff training, and opportunities for internships.

Preuss educators are determined to find answers to the following questions: What do struggling readers and writers need? How do disadvantaged students reach their full potential in literacy? This quest has led to a schoolwide focus on reading and writing informational text in a rigorous college-prep curriculum. During weekly staff development time, teachers develop innovations to help students fill any achievement gaps in reading and writing.

Schoolwide Literacy Goals

  • To prepare all students to compete with the country's top graduating high school seniors for admission to a university or other opportunities
  • To help students reach their full potential in literacy
  • To provide a rigorous curriculum for students by keeping current on research findings on best teaching practices

Criteria for Identifying Students at Risk of Below-Grade-Level Performance in Reading and Writing

Students' performance in reading and writing is gauged by examining data from several areas:

  • The Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (SDRT) is used to measure students' growth in reading comprehension, scanning, and vocabulary over three years.
  • California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)results are reviewed.
  • STAR information on student performance on the California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition (CAT/6) and the California Standards Test is used to determine which students are at risk of not achieving grade-level performance in reading and writing.
  • Students' grades across the curriculum are considered.
  • A Student Study Team, composed of the targeted student, the parents or guardian, and all of the student's teachers, is convened. The student's performance, his or her progress, and strategies for improvement are discussed and a formal plan is prepared.
  • Teachers' feedback identifying the student's needs at the end of each trimester grading period is used. The teachers prepare an individual "At-Risk Student Learning Contract," offering comments on their evaluation and observations of the student's below-grade-level performance in reading, writing, or other skills.
  • Parents and targeted students participate in a conference with the school's Guidance Department to make a specific action plan to ensure each student's improvement and academic success.

Content Literacy

Language arts teachers employ the following literacy strategies focusing on the school's grade six Literacy Enrichment course and its high-school-level Writers Workshop (English-Language Arts Content Standards: Reading 1.0 and 2.0; Writing 1.0 and 2.0):

  • Word study, which prepares at-risk readers to understand the visual aspects of words and phonological patterns
  • Reading aloud, through which students develop an understanding of the patterns and structures of written language, learn new words and ideas, and learn about various genres and forms of writing (This also supports the joy of reading and the art of listening.)
  • Shared reading, which demonstrates the reading process and strategies that successful readers use (This strategy provides a means by which the entire class can read books that might otherwise be too difficult.)
  • Guided reading, which provides opportunities for students to practice reading strategies and take increasing responsibility for improving their comprehension
  • Independent reading, which gives students opportunities to practice strategies they have learned in shared reading, guided reading, read aloud, and word study (Students become proficient at selecting books that match their interests and reading level.)
  • Modeled writing, which involves teacher's modeling of the writing process, posing questions, and clarifying the purpose of the writing (Students are introduced to the strategies that proficient writers use.)
  • Shared writing, which allows all students to participate successfully in the writing process
  • Guided writing, which develops student's ability to write independently and to monitor their use of writing skills and strategies
  • Independent writing, which presents opportunities for students to write and use a variety of styles (Teachers confer with students and encourage them to their publish in a variety of ways, including showcasing on bulletin boards to writing contests.)

Literacy strategies Used Across Disciplines

  • Cornell note taking is required of all students. They are taught a system of double-entry note taking and responding through questions, categorization, and summarization
  • Collaborative strategy instruction is an approach in which both the teacher and the student discuss and evaluate strategies used for understanding nonfiction text for students at grade level and those below grade level
  • Interactive journals are used in social studies classes and require students to take notes on text and lectures and to add their reflections on the material covered
  • Graphic organizers are used to help students comprehend the text
  • KWL Plus engages students in an active reading process as they learn new material that builds on previous knowledge
  • Learning logs are used in classes across grade levels as a tool for students' self-assessment and for teachers' assessment of students' understanding of content
  • Literature circles and discussion groups are used in language arts classes, providing opportunities to choose, read, and discuss high-quality literature
  • Question-answer relationships (QAR) strategy is used to increase students' reading comprehension
  • RAFT is used to incorporate a variety of writing styles into content area reading by having students take multiple perspectives on a topic and then write about what they have learned
  • Reciprocal teaching is used with videos. This technique gives students opportunities to summarize, question, clarify, and predict
  • The research process is tied to Preuss School's I CLEAR (Inquiry, Collaboration, Evidence, Application, Research) strategy
  • Structured discussions, including Socratic seminars, are used to teach skills for discussing complex or controversial topics
  • Think aloud is a verbalization of the thought processes that occur during the reading of a text. This strategy is useful for students to see, hear, and experience reading and problem solving and then apply the strategy to their independent reading
  • Tutoring as a high-impact intervention is a key element of student support. The school's presence on a university campus means that UCSD students are readily available to tutor Preuss students through the university's Teacher Education Program or as volunteers
  • Writing-reading workshop is used at multiple grade levels to provide students opportunities to integrate language arts skills and strategies

Library Media Program

  • The library has a credentialed library media teacher and clerical support staff.
  • The library media teacher collaborates with classroom teachers to introduce and strengthen information literacy skills.
  • The library media teacher integrates Eisenberg and Berkowitz's Big 6 research strategies (1990) with curriculum content. Students learn to complete research in the library. Using the Big 6 research strategies, each student:
    • Defines a task by identifying and focusing topics
    • Uses information-seeking strategies
    • Locates and accesses multiple sources of information
    • Collects and uses information by means of accurate note taking
    • Synthesizes information by writing up the assigned research
    • Completes a self-evaluation of the research report

English-Language Arts Core

  • The language arts program integrates reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
  • A scope and sequence chart developed by staff identifies standards and skills across the grade levels:
    • Each course/grade level identifies type of required essay writing, which includes a variety of discourse modes.
    • Writing organization, writing practice, literary genres, grammar instruction, and word concepts are included.
    • Core literature is required at each grade level.
  • Collaborative planning within the English Department integrates standards into the language arts program. Teachers share lessons with one another and engage in departmental examination of students' work.
  • Independent reading is encouraged through sustained silent reading (SSR) and reinforced through the Kick Back and Read (KBAR) program.
  • Systematic and ongoing assessment identifies students' needs:
    • Formal feedback (e.g., progress reports, report cards)
    • Teacher-student conferences
    • Student Study Teams and involvement of the counseling staff
  • Emphasis is placed on a range of reading experiences through exposure to core literary works--classics and multicultural literature of merit-- for independent reading assignments and discussion in literature circles.
  • Literacy-rich opportunities are provided to students:
    • Playwrights Project
    • La Jolla Playhouse performances
    • Speaking engagements by published authors
    • Lunchtime student poetry readings
    • Regularly scheduled book fairs

Reading Interventions

  • Specific courses provided as interventions:
    • 6th Grade Literacy Enrichment
    • Writers Workshop (using literacy approaches) for high school students
  • Individual or small-group tutoring, provided with support from UCSD
  • Scholastic Reading Inventory, which provides for individualized book selection, a check test, and teachers' monitoring of students' progress
  • Support for English learners, provided through translations of materials when appropriate, and reinforcement of literacy strategies in Spanish classes
  • Multiple ways of providing students access to information (e.g., audiotapes, videos, computer programs, projects, shared and guided reading and writing)
  • Frequent assessment and reporting of students' progress through the teachers' observations, appropriate tests, and conferences

Professional Development/Ongoing Support

  • The staff development program at Preuss has four major strands:
    • Instructional improvement, based on The Teaching Gap by Stigler and Hiebert, that emphasizes teachers' refinement of lessons
    • Curriculum implementation that focuses on backward design units, derived from Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe
    • Professional development that emphasizes self-analysis, self-reflection, and goal setting for improvement; ongoing learning through attendance at conferences; and the reading of professional journals (Weekly staff development sessions are held on late-start days. Topics include assessment, standards, teaching for understanding, and research on teaching a population of disadvantaged students.)
    • School and organizational development that focuses on providing structures to support high-quality teaching and learning and on improving students' achievement
  • The literacy component of the staff development program uses Strategic Teaching and Learning. Staff development sessions provide opportunities to learn the literacy strategies, understand the rationale and appropriateness of particular strategies, and learn how to apply those strategies to classroom instruction. The following critical questions shape the staff development program:
    • How do we ensure that the curriculum is aligned with California's content standards?
    • How do students know which standards they are meeting?
    • What are the most effective ways to convey expectations clearly to students, parents, and other members of our school community?
    • What evidence do we have that students are meeting the specific content standards?
    • What coordination of the curriculum exists within subject areas and across disciplines to ensure that students are learning information both in depth and breadth?
    • In what ways are Preuss students assessed? What kinds of information are needed and what do the assessments indicate about students' performance and achievement?

Schoolwide Initiatives Promoting Literacy

  • Development of a schoolwide writing assessment and a portfolio system across the disciplines that culminate in grade-level exhibitions of students' work
  • Schoolwide participation in writing competitions across the disciplines


  • A longer school day and block periods for all courses
  • Tutoring and a Saturday Enrichment Academy for students with special needs

Evidence of Success (as of 2003)

  • California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results for Preuss students showed a San Diego county-high pass rate of 97% in language arts on the first round of testing.
  • All Preuss students passed the CAHSEE in the second round of testing.
  • Preuss met its growth target, raising its API score from 800 to 805.

Plans for Dissemination

Having recently been awarded a dissemination grant, Preuss staff plan to apply the knowledge they have gained about the best ways to improve the academic performance of disadvantaged students to the following projects:

  • Schoolwide demonstrations of instructional strategies and reports of information about how the school's structure contributes to successful performance
  • An online Listserv for quick access to and dialogue about staff's work
  • A curriculum fair for educators to visit and observe classes; meet with faculty, students, and parents; and pose questions or review documents
  • Tours for small groups who have a specific interest in the school
  • Special Issues Forums for discussion of specific topics
  • Publication of a handbook of teacher research projects and curriculum units
For More Information Contact:

Preuss Model School at University of California, San Diego
San Diego Unified School District
Doris Alvarez, Principal

Jan Gabay, Teacher, Staff Developer

Questions:   Mary Ann Goodwin | mgoodwin@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-4800
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