Literacy at Quincy High: A case study of one high school's focus on literacy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Kathleen Hinchman


Literacy, High school, Quincy High School

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Reading and Language


This dissertation presents the results of a six-month study of an urban high school in the process of reform. Quincy High School was an urban school that implemented a school improvement plan with a strong "literacy focus" for the 2001-2002 school year. The main question of the study was, "What does it mean when an urban high school directs its collective efforts toward students' literacy development?". In order to discover the meaning that constituents gave to this initiative, I conducted classroom observations, interviewed representative groups of administrators, teachers, and students, and analyzed pertinent documents.

A major part of that focus was a schoolwide "writing process" and writing rubric that was based on state exams for the English Language Arts. A secondary part was the inclusion of more reading and the use of McDougal-Littell reading strategies in all subject areas. Results of the study show that informants interpreted the literacy focus in varying ways, based on their knowledge of literacy teaching and learning. Administrators seemed mainly concerned with outcomes and goals; teachers focused on incorporating more writing into their discipline without sacrificing content; and students, while not initially aware of the focus, were able to report on the kinds of activities that helped them most. While the school faced some challenges in the form of truancy, perceived lack of parental support, and low literacy skills of students, the struggles were met with strengths that included strong leadership, unity of purpose on the part of the staff, and caring concern by staff members for students. Results of this study have strong implications for policy, practice, and future research.


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