Book Review

Greater Expectations: Teaching Academic Literacy to Underrepresented Students

by Robin Turner, Stenhouse, Portland, Maine, 2008, 240 pp. with index, $18 softcover

For 10 years, Robin Turner, author of Greater Expectations, has been a teacher leader for the Puente Project, a program begun in 1981 to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students who enroll in four-year colleges, earn degrees, and return to the community as leaders and mentors of future generations. Puente is Spanish for “bridge,” an apt name for an accelerated reading and writing, intensive counseling, and mentoring program operating primarily in southern California.

Greater Expectations

Greater Expectations
describes Turner’s experiences with the Puente Project at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, Calif., where he’s taught English for 16 years. He learned about proper implementation with a peer group and capitalized on this approach in his own classroom. His description of teaching techniques for literacy development is worthy reading for all English teachers and language arts supervisors, as they is universally applicable.

What sets this approach apart from simply good instruction are the concepts of “familia” and “carino,” or family and caring. Underrepresented students tend to need more of a sense of community, which taps into their culture and associations.

In a similar fashion, these students are accustomed to being viewed as a collection of deficits, rather than as individuals who should be appreciated in their own right.

School leaders with significant numbers of underrepresented students will find Greater Expectations contains worthwhile ideas for raising academic literacy. Those who explore adopting the Puente Project could use a study group to create a locally designed adaptation. I suggest passing along this book to a receptive English teacher.

Reviewed by Arthur Stellar, superintendent, Taunton, Mass.