Why do you need a Reading Specialist?
If your school conducts fall testing, your scores should be in. After taking a look at them, you find that your students are all scoring above Benchmark in reading. YAY for you, your students, and teachers! As evidenced by your reading scores, reading instruction is effectively garnering the results you want and the scores your students deserve. Literacy instruction is exactly as it should be. Oh, wait…so, this is NOT your story?
This is why you need a Reading Specialist.
The Reading Specialist is exactly that, an educational SPECIALIST in the same way that the cardiologist, rheumatologist, and podiatrist are specialists in the medical field. When I have foot problems, I’m not satisfied with what my general practitioner has to say about my foot and neither is she. She refers me to the SPECIALIST. There I can have the expert assess the issue by examining my foot, diagnose the problem, prescribe a course of action to correct the problem, then implement a course of action. Along these same lines, the Reading Specialist is prepared to do the following:
Collect student data -------------------Assess
Analyze the data------------------------Diagnose
Create an instructional plan----------Prescribe
Carry out the instructional plan ---- Implement
Work with students who struggle with reading
We all know those talented teachers who can really teach reading well. They consistently send students to the next grade who are prepared for the next grade level material. Those teachers have somehow figured out on their own, through trial and error, how reading skills should be taught. The typical teacher education program only requires one or two reading courses. Reading Specialists, on the other hand, are required to take about 30 hours or 8-10 classes on literacy including 3 or 4 classes on diagnosis, correction, and a practicum course that allows application of the theory and knowledge they’ve learned in their program through planning lessons and tutoring. Reading Specialists enter the classroom door with a high level of reading knowledge and experience and, with practice, become even more proficient reading teachers over time. As a foot patient, my choice would be the doctor who already has the training and expertise rather than the well-meaning doctor who might (or might not) have learned how to adequately resolve my foot problems. I won’t get another foot while, analogously, our children also don’t get another year to learn or improve crucial reading skills without consequence. For some children, the distinction between the two skill sets is critical.
Work with teachers to improve reading instruction
Also included in the Reading Specialist coursework are classes that prepare candidates for coaching and professional development. The Reading Specialist is not only equipped to work with your struggling readers, but also prepared to work with your teachers in enhancing their capacity for improved reading instruction. The benefits of a Reading Specialist increases exponentially when she is able to share her expertise with other teachers through modeling, observations, feedback, planning and co-planning, and coaching which has been proven to result in improved literacy knowledge and instruction. Reading scores will improve because instruction improves providing tremendous advantages to your literacy program all because you have had this one particular person, with these specialized skills, in your building.
Work with principals and school/district leaders to improve reading scores
Some of my most important work has been coaching principals around implementing effective literacy systems. Our work oftentimes resulted in an improved literacy culture, which contributed to increased reading scores for their school. Principals have their hands full (to say the very least!) managing all the components in a school building. The success of a school is highly dependent on its literacy systems although principals oftentimes are ill prepared and/or simply too busy with all of their other duties to keep their eyes on this very important area of school improvement. The Reading Specialist can serve as that designated literacy professional who has their eyes on the literacy pulse of the school. Reading instruction, data, activities, materials, expectations, programs, and scores all need constant attention by a person who has the qualifications to determine what is most appropriate for school success. The Reading Specialist has those qualifications and can ensure these important areas get the attention they need. The Reading Specialist can also utilize the same coaching skills she uses with teachers to collaborate with principals. We can all benefit from good coaching to achieve better results and principal coaching can provide principals with the support they need to conceptualize and realize the literacy goals they have for their schools.
The Reading Specialist as:
is worth her weight in GOLD!
These are all the reasons why, YES, you NEED a Reading Specialist!
About the Author
Kimberly A. Chase, Ed.D. is a former classroom teacher, reading specialist, administrator, and literacy expert with more than 20 years of experience working with principals move towards improving literacy instruction in their schools. Currently, she is consulting with principals, reading specialists, teachers, and students in and out of school on all things related to literacy. Improving reading at your school begins here: 888.442.READ (7323); Askmschase@gmail.com