This study used qualitative methods, as part of a 2-year collaborative university/middle school effort, to understand the instructional reading practices in effect at the seventh-grade level and to investigate whether any of the practices might be related to the differential reading performance of the school's African-American students. Few of the teachers felt comfortable teaching reading at the middle-school level. They tended to emphasize whole-class instruction, oral reading, and the coverage of required texts, practices not oriented toward helping low readers improve their reading. The low reading performance of the African-American students was affected by the school's use of homogeneous grouping, overrepresentation of African Americans in the low classes, and by the type of reading instruction offered in these classes. If middle-school students are to improve their literacy capabilities, and if past inequities are to be overturned, then middle school experts and faculty, along with literacy experts, need to work together to develop a literacy curriculum.
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