Richland Two selected to participate in national initiative to address pressing challenges in adolescent writing

April 21, 2021

Richland School District Two will join Digital Promise and its Center for Inclusive Innovation in an equity-centered research and development (R&D) initiative to tackle adolescent writing challenges. This initiative is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and aims to better support Black and Latinx students, and those experiencing poverty, in high school writing.

Richland Two was selected from a competitive pool of applicants from the League of Innovative Schools (League), a national coalition of forward-thinking K-12 school districts organized by Digital Promise. The district’s selection was based on continued dedication to improving adolescent writing opportunities, strong community connections, and demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Over the next year, a team of Richland Two educators and community stakeholders will work with leaders from Digital Promise to understand Richland Two’s primary challenges in high school writing, and prototype and trial solutions to address these challenges.

“Qualitative and quantitative data are showing us students are being short-changed in their learning experiences in writing because the expectations of students, particularly those in poverty, vary from teacher to teacher and school to school,” said Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron R. Davis. “When you have a four percent gap in Black and Caucasian students scoring proficient or above on a writing analysis at one high school and a 29 percent gap at another school, it’s a sobering and problematic reality that needs to be addressed through the lens of equity.”

Because research has shown that challenges in adolescent writing disproportionately impact Black and Latinx students and those experiencing poverty, leveraging community expertise to address these specific challenges in Richland Two can have profound implications.

“Success or struggle in writing can affect student performance and confidence in every academic area, and writing can help students make connections to their own culture, values, and identities,” said Kim Smith, executive director of the League and the Center for Inclusive Innovation. “We’re inspired by Richland Two’s commitment to advancing writing opportunities for high schoolers.”

The core R&D team includes:

  • Dr. Gloria Boutte, Carolina Distinguished Professor, University of South Carolina
  • Jessica Miller, High School ELA Specialist, Richland Two
  • Dr. Felicia Riggs-Roberson, English Teacher, Spring Valley High School
  • Rebecca Thomas, Education Coordinator, Richland County Library

“I’m thrilled to partner with such an equity-minded organization to support adolescent writing. The act of writing empowers, uplifts, advocates, and builds confidence. Every single student in Richland Two deserves those things,” said Jessica Miller.

Starting in May, this team will begin deepening relationships and thoroughly investigating the identified challenges from multiple perspectives. They will engage a range of community and district stakeholders in a co-design process to develop, test, and improve on a solution idea, focusing on solutions to specifically support and benefit Black and Latino students, and those experiencing poverty. Teachers and students at Ridge View and Spring Valley High schools will contribute to the process, alongside parents and community members.