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Expeditionary Learning Launches New Book to Help Teachers Raise the Bar in Student Scholarship and Citizenship

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    Alexis Margolin



September 10, 2014
– As the country grapples with adopting higher academic standards in order to improve student achievement, Expeditionary Learning – an education leader with two decades of success transforming classrooms in order to achieve deeper student learning and performance – is launching a new resource for teachers, to help them leverage the higher-bar standards and engage, challenge, and inspire students with work that matters.

In the new book, Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters, Expeditionary Learning (EL) taps its 20 years of innovation and experience delivering “hard” academic results and fostering transformational character development among students of all kinds. Working with 160+ public schools – both district and charter – and more than 50,000 students across the country in primarily low-income urban and rural areas, EL has helped teachers cultivate engaged students who can develop the skills and character they need for success in college, work, and life.

Higher-bar standards nationwide
“The rollout of ‘higher-bar’ academic standards nationwide, including Common Core, is placing enormous pressure on teachers to transform the way they engage students,” says co-author and Chief Academic Officer of EL, Ron Berger. “It is time to transform education to aim for a higher quality of work. This is a book about leveraging the literacy shifts to elevate student scholarship and citizenship across all academic disciplines.”

“Hopeful and helpful, Transformational Literacy is filled with work-worthy ideas that instill hope in readers by providing helpful vignettes, descriptive examples, text suggestions, and instructional shifts that will prepare young scholars for the 21st century. No classroom teacher, instructional coach, or administrator should be without this book,” says Cris Tovani, secondary English teacher and instructional coach, author, and international literacy consultant.

20 years of success in hundreds of schools nationwide
The authors of Transformational Literacy – Mr. Berger, Libby Woodfin, Suzanne Plaut, Cheryl Dobbertin, Anne Vilen, and Leah Rugen – are former teachers themselves who understand the challenges in classrooms today. They have worked with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and public and charter schools across the country to raise the bar for students.

The stories, examples, and resources that permeate Transformational Literacy come from the more than 160 Expeditionary Learning schools around the country. The book also draws on Expeditionary Learning’s open-source ELA curriculum – often cited as one of the finest in the country – and professional development offered to thousands of teachers to implement that curriculum effectively.

Over the past three years, Expeditionary Learning has partnered with the New York State Department of Education to develop an open-source curriculum for Grades 3-8, which is now in use in more than 1,000 New York public schools. The curriculum recently hit the milestone of two million downloads nationwide.

Written by teachers, for teachers
Written by practitioners for practitioners, the book and its accompanying videos combine the best of what Expeditionary Learning knows works for kids – purposeful, inquiry-based learning – and the new imperative of the higher-bar standards: higher and deeper expectations for all students.

Through the book, readers will learn specific strategies for linking classroom instruction to the new educational standards, including:

  • How to choose literary and informational texts to create a “text-rich classroom”
  • How to “hook” students into content and foster curiosity
  • Daily instructional moves to support students in becoming “evidence-based” readers and writers
  • Ways to provide students with writing tasks that will motivate them to produce high-quality work
  • How to create an effective and supportive peer “feedback culture” in the classroom
  • How to support students in reading complex and challenging texts
  • An instructional framework for helping students in close reading

Online book club
On October 1st, Expeditionary Learning will launch an online book club to explore Transformational Literacy in-depth. Teachers and educators across the country will meet online to share observations, questions, and resources with colleagues experiencing the shift to higher standards. For more information and to register, visit http://bit.ly/TLbookclub.

About EL’s Results: 2013 Mathematica Report
A 2013 report from Mathematica Policy Research found that EL middle school students performed better in reading and math than their counterparts in other public schools, deriving the equivalent of an extra 7 months of learning growth after 3 years in reading, and an extra 10 months of learning growth in math.

About the Authors
Ron Berger is chief academic officer for Expeditionary Learning, overseeing resources and professional learning for schools nationally. Berger works closely with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he did his graduate work, and currently teaches a course that uses exemplary student work to illuminate Common Core State Standards. Prior to his work with Expeditionary Learning and Harvard, Berger was a public school teacher in rural Massachusetts for more than 25 years. Berger is an Annenberg Foundation Teacher Scholar and received the Autodesk Foundation National Teacher of the Year award. His previous books include An Ethic of Excellence, A Culture of Quality, and Leaders of Their Own Learning.

Libby Woodfin is the Director of Publications for Expeditionary Learning. A former 5th-and 6th-grade teacher, Woodfin joined Expeditionary Learning in 2007 while completing graduate work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her previous books include Familiar Ground: Traditions That Build School Community and Leaders of Their Own Learning.

Suzanne Nathan Plaut is the Director of Curriculum Design for Expeditionary Learning. Plaut holds a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she served on the editorial board for the Harvard Educational Review.

Cheryl Becker Dobbertin is the Program Director for Expeditionary Learning’s Teacher Potential Project, a federally funded Investing in Innovation initiative. She also codirects Expeditionary Learning’s work in New York developing EL’s Common Core-aligned ELA curriculum in Grades 3-8, and providing implementation support to districts and teachers across the state.

Anne Vilen is a Staff Writer and School Designer for Expeditionary Learning. Vilen served as director of program and professional development for seven years at an Expeditionary Learning school before joining Expeditionary Learning as a school designer in 2011.

Leah Rugen has worked as an educator and writer for more than twenty years. Beginning her career as a high school English teacher, she went on to be part of the founding staff at Expeditionary Learning. She is the author of several books including Understanding Learning, Creating Small Schools, and Leaders of Their Own Learning.