Why are literacy skills so important today?
In today's fast-moving world, students need to be able to read, think, write and communicate effectively. These literacy skills are a major component of the new Idaho Core Standards, which were adopted as part of an effort to ensure Idaho students graduate with the skills they will need to succeed in college and careers.

How are teachers teaching these literacy skills?
In the past, literacy skills were largely taught in English classes. Now, almost all middle and high school teachers in Idaho Falls School District 91 are using their own content to teach critical reading and writing skills using a framework called the Literacy Design Collaborative or LDC.

What is a Literacy Design Collaborative?
The LDC is an instructional framework aligned to Idaho Core Standards that helps teachers design meaningful, engaging learning experiences to improve literacy skills across content areas. Students are given challenging writing assignments in all subject areas, including subjects such as science, PE, music and history. Those assignments extend students' thinking, help them develop research, reading and writing skills, and improve the transfer of knowledge and abilities across classes.

What does an LDC assignment look like?
LDC assignments or modules are designed to help students grow their skills through a wide variety of learning activities. As part of the assignment, students may be given relevant and imaginative tasks that encourage critical analysis of big ideas. Each module culminates with a writing exercise from one of three categories: informational, argumentative or narrative. For example, in a biology class, students may be asked to perform this LDC task: After researching journal articles on Mendelian genetics, students may be asked to develop a hypothesis, and conduct an experiment examining Drosophila melanogaster. Afterward, they would write a laboratory report that explains their procedures and results, confirms or rejects their hypothesis and highlights the conclusions they have drawn. In a photography class, students may be asked to think critically about photography practices. For example, Civil War photographer Matthew Brady frequently repositioned and rearranged bodies of dead soldiers and other objects when he composed photographs of war scenes. Is there anything about Brady's practice that should disturb us? After students read informational texts and examine Brady's photographs, they might be asked to write an editorial and create artwork that addresses the question and supports their position with evidence from the text(s).

How many LDC assignments will teachers give in a year?
Each teacher will teach at least one LDC module per trimester, which will ensure all students spend more time reading, writing and using higher-order thinking skills. While every module will teach different content, all teachers will have the same goal: to teach students critical thinking skills and prepare them for success in college and careers.

How will teachers know whether students' literacy skills are improving?
Teacher will track students' progress throughout the year. The district has set a goal that every student will demonstrate positive growth in at least 4 of the 7 scoring elements from the Common Core literacy standards. Those scoring elements include:

  • Focus
  • Controlling Ideas
  • Reading/Research
  • Development/Organization
  • Conventions
  • Content Understanding.

How are teachers using Late Start Mondays to implement the LDC?
As a result of the new Late Start Monday calendar, teachers have the time to work together on designing, evaluating and implementing LDC modules. They also are using that time to evaluate data to determine where students are strong and where they need additional help. It would be difficult for teachers to effectively implement the LDC without designated time to collaborate.

Has the LDC been proven to improve students' literacy skills?
Yes. Research supports the LDC framework's effectiveness, and it is being used in school districts and educational networks in 40 states across the country with great success. http://www.ldc.org/

Thanks to INL and Batelle Education for helping Idaho Falls School District 91 to bring these collaboratives to Idaho. iSTEM's generous donation has provided essential resources for more than 300 teachers in six different secondary schools. The district is fortunate to have this opportunity to pilot these innovative programs and looks forward to spreading this educational model throughout Idaho.