Educational policy in the U.S. currently centers on college and career readiness, with the spotlight is on high schools to meet higher expectations for students’ literacy achievement. Ever-rising expectations are consistent with the U.S. standards movement, now in its third iteration. As funding for school improvement becomes increasingly scarce, high schools must try to do more with less. A focused, disciplined approach to literacy improvement is recommended, based on three major actions. First, school leaders should build the infrastructure to support a multi-year literacy improvement effort. Second, they should teach teachers to view each new standards document as an opportunity to examine and, when necessary, raise their expectations for students’ literacy learning. Language suggesting that teachers must adopt or comply with standards runs counter to this approach. Finally, leaders should have teachers take ownership of literacy improvement efforts through building their own staircase curricula.