Texas Tech University

Literacy Champions

Outreach and Engagement

Students in a class

Lubbock Independent School District (LISD) provides education to nearly 30,000 students in the Lubbock area.

Lubbock Independent School District (LISD) provides education to nearly 30,000 students in the Lubbock area. One particular school within LISD realized their students were in dire need of writing development. This is a national trend. According to the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data, only one quarter of U.S. students in eighth and twelfth grade can write proficiently.

Creating a solution

Administrators from LISD, Berta Ferguson and Dr. Beverly Finch, and educators from Estacado High School, Amy Higgins and Rene Todd, reached out to the College of Education at Texas Tech University (TTU) for guidance. This led to a partnership with Dr. Julie Smit, Dr. Mellinee Lesley and Dawn Burke from TTU who are leaders in the field of literacy and known as Literacy Champions. Together, they created Literacy Champions, a collaborative effort to improve P-12 students' writing achievements as part of the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood (ELPN) grant. LISD was supportive of this initiative by sharing district assessments and data that have helped determine the impact of the program.

Having an impact

Literacy Champions is committed to collaborating with district instructional coaches to develop district-wide professional sessions, school-wide professional learning communities, teacher planning sessions, and vertical alignment meetings. Using a writing rubric created by LISD teachers to measure writing growth, students' writing achievement has improved significantly. This is especially true for students who struggled the most. These students are more engaged in their writing and demonstrate more stamina. They are also setting metacognitive goals for themselves.

Tech graduate students have been positively impacted by participating in research design, analysis and publication in peer- reviewed journals and conferences. To date, the partnership has led to two national peer-reviewed conference presentations, one proposal submission, and two regional conferences including the Regional Academic Engagement Symposium held at TTU in 2017. Three manuscripts have been submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals in the field of literacy education.


Literacy Champions consists of four different research teams that are currently developing proposals for national conferences and manuscripts for publication. The teams plan to combine research and experience into a book that describes what students perceive as meaningful writing and how it aligns with high school and early college expectations. “Our research assistants and doctoral students are actively engaged with us in our work as Literacy Champions,” said Dr. Smit. “They are currently in classrooms working with students and teachers, and they are engaged in the College of Education's application experience initiative to develop research in meaningful contexts with real-world implications.” The goal for the future is to provide school districts with a structure that ensures lasting impact on the pedagogy of teachers and the writing achievement of students.

For more information, contact Julie Smit, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education; phone: (806)834-8938; e-mail: Julie.smit@ttu.edu.

Outreach & Engagement