Moving the needle on adolescent literacy: Ed School hosts 6th annual Jeanne Chall Lecture

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In secondary schools around the nation, the achievement gap among adolescent readers is wide and growing. Motivation is often low, instructional time is insufficient, and campus environments are rarely conducive to improving literacy performance. University of Kansas Professor Donald Deshler, also director of the Center for Research on Learning, spoke about these realities at the Ed School’s sixth annual Jeanne S. Chall Lecture held on Oct.21.

“The questions that we’re grappling with are the following: How do we move the needle on adolescent literacy? Can we move it? And if we’re to succeed, what buttons should we be pushing instructionally and organizationally in school systems,” asked Deshler, during his talk, “Moving the Needle on Adolescent Literacy.”

After brief introductions by Academic Dean Robert Schwartz and Associate Professor Nonie Lesaux, Deshler quickly reminisced about his first encounter with the late Jeanne Chall, a former Ed School professor and celebrated leader in reading research and instruction. “I was about to present a lecture in Longfellow Hall when somebody tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to a woman in the audience and whispered, ‘Do you know who that is? That’s Jeanne Chall!’ I totally freaked out! There she was, sitting in the front row! But she was so kind; she just smiled and bobbed her head. Kindness was always high on her list of characteristics,” he said.