President's Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award
As a component of the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood grant, the Lubbock Independent School District (LISD) identified academic writing development as a significant need for K-12 students in the district and asked the Texas Tech College of Education to collaborate on providing support in addressing this need. Inadequate writing development of K-12 students has garnered national media attention over the lack of adolescent writing skills and the economic burden of their placement into developmental writing coursework in post-secondary settings. This trend is reflected in international achievement scores: one quarter of U.S. students in eighth and twelfth grade write "proficiently" (NAEP, 2011). While there is a significant research base for varied and authentic writing instruction, K-12 teachers consider these practices time intensive and irrelevant to the pressure of raising test scores. University faculty are considered out of touch with the immediate writing needs of struggling schools. In this context, literacy education scholars are turning toward engaged scholarship as an approach to bridge gaps between theory and practice to develop meaningful impact for K-12 students.
Mellinee Lesley and Julie Smit have served as "Literacy Champions" to LISD for five years. Their partnership has evolved from working with multiple schools to focus on one high school with the highest writing needs. In collaboration with the instructional coach, they investigate how English teachers engage in continuous embedded professional development to transform their writing instruction and, as a result, how ninth and tenth grade students are developing their academic writing skills. While LISD has seen a rise in rigorous writing instruction and gains in writing achievement of their students due to the partnership, university faculty and graduate students have also benefited through manuscript production, presentations at national and regional peer-reviewed conferences, and extending the work of the ELPN grant to include additional external funding.
Julie Smit, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, TTU College of Education
Mellinee Lesley, Professor, Language, Diversity, and Literacy Studies, TTU College of Education