Alumni News: Laying the Ground for Literacy
Published in TC Today - Volume 35, No. 2
Andrés Henríquez has helped make teen literacy a national priority
Each time a state adopts the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, Andrés Henríquez (M.A. ‘92) alerts the world via his Twitter feed (@AndresHenriquez).
That’s because Henríquez, program officer at the Carnegie Corporation of New York in charge of its adolescent literacy initiative, believes
the standards—now adopted by 44 states—reflect Carnegie’s decade-long effort to improve understanding of an issue once framed in
“It’s not just about illiteracy, but ensuring reading and writing at high levels of comprehensibility, especially at the upper grades,” he says. “We’ve tried to put the issue on the nation’s agenda.”
Henríquez has helped a wide range of individuals and groups secure funding, partnering with leaders such as the National Governors Association and the Alliance for Excellent Education. The work has produced new instructional and technology tools, as well as two reports, Reading Next and Writing Next (the latter co-authored by TC faculty member Dolores Perin) that have each been downloaded more than 2.5 million times. In the policy field, those are runaway best-seller numbers. (The reports can be downloaded at www.carnegie.org/literacy.)
Teen literacy was not Henríquez’s formal specialty when he joined Carnegie—but having worked many years with the Center for Children & Technology’s nationally-recognized project in Union City, N.J., he understood the needs of English language learners and the dynamics of working at school and district levels. He had also taught public school in his childhood neighborhood in East Harlem—his first job after leaving TC. “I taught the children of some of my friends,” he says.
Literacy is an issue that reflects broad demographic trends, Henríquez points out. “We’ve seen a huge shift in this country in terms of diversity, and it’s happening in the schools,” he says. “There is an influx of English language learners not just in cities but in suburbs and exurbs.”
Henríquez is now working with the National Academy of Sciences and Achieve, Inc., to develop the next generation of science standards, but he still worries about getting the ELA and mathematics standards implemented, and whether the funding will be there to support the necessary instruction.
“This is important because we are trying to get a lot more students to be prepared for college, and to graduate,” he says. “Unfortunately, too many of our young people need remediation, especially in community college. We are trying to close that gap.”