Standards 2010: Issues in Reading Education That Affected Standards Development

The Standards 2010 Committee deliberated about several important educational issues that affected the development and content of Standards 2010. In this section, we provide an explanation of the thinking that informed the decision making of the Committee. Issues discussed include the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach role, English learners, Response to Intervention, the use of the terms all readers and struggling readers, and specificity in professional standards.

Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach Roles

Committee members had many discussions about how to address the roles of the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach. The reading specialist has a long history in schools, often assuming multiple roles, such as working with struggling readers, assessing students with reading difficulties, and serving as a literacy leader by coordinating literacy efforts, serving as a resource to teachers, assisting in the development of the curriculum or the selection of materials, and helping teachers modify instruction to meet the needs of students in the school. In other words, reading specialists have often been assigned or undertaken a role similar to that of a literacy coach.

Recently, however, the new role of literacy coach has been introduced into schools. The major function of these educators is to provide support to teachers in their instructional efforts and specifically to help reading professionals provide the differentiated instruction necessary to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. Often, reading specialists have been asked to serve as literacy coaches, or districts interested in hiring literacy coaches have, in their job description, indicated that candidates for the coach position must have a reading specialist certificate. However, in some cases, individuals who do not have such certification have been hired, sometimes because of the difficulty in finding qualified individuals for the position (see Frost & Bean [2006] and IRA’s [2004] position statement on reading coaches).

What is evident is that the distinguishing differences between a reading specialist and a literacy coach are not clearly delineated. Therefore, the Standards 2010 Committee debated the wisdom of developing a separate set of competencies for literacy coaches alone, in addition to the set for the reading specialist. In the end, the Committee decided to maintain the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach role as is for the following reasons.

First, as defined in the IRA (2000) position statement on the role of the reading specialist, individuals in that role have a dual responsibility: working with struggling readers and supporting the efforts of classroom teachers. Therefore, reading specialists need to have the leadership skills, similar to those needed by literacy coaches, that enable them to support and provide leadership to teachers, even though their major responsibility may be working with struggling readers. With the many efforts to provide appropriate instruction for all students in the classroom, this leadership role is an important one for reading specialists. Further, by keeping the two roles as one, we felt that we would be able to promote the importance of reading specialist certification as an important credential for literacy coaches. Finally, the term literacy coach is a somewhat new title that has not stood the test of time, and it was our hope that by keeping the two roles as one, we would provide local educational agencies with the flexibility they needed when thinking about how reading specialists might function in their schools.

To provide guidance to those institutions with reading specialist certification programs, we are more specific in Standards 2010 about the coaching competencies needed by candidates in the program. In describing the possible evidence for the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach Candidate, we follow, when appropriate, a similar format across standards: The candidate can do, can support (teachers), and can lead. This breakdown supports the notion that reading specialists must, for example, be able to administer and interpret various assessment instruments, support teachers in administering and interpreting assessment instruments, and lead professional development sessions that provide teachers with the knowledge and understanding of various assessments and how they can be used.

We acknowledge that when candidates complete a reading specialist/literacy coach program, they are at the novice level; that is, they have entry skills for the position. We also acknowledge that candidates for a position that emphasizes the coaching role should have the experiential background that would enable them to gain the trust and establish the credibility necessary to support the work of teachers. Specifically, those being employed for coaching positions should have taught in the classroom, especially at the level (i.e., elementary, middle, or high school) at which they are going to coach. Further, experiences in working with struggling readers would be important, as these professionals will be helping teachers address the needs of students who experience difficulty with reading and writing (see IRA [2004]).

Although the Standards 2010 Committee made the decision to maintain the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach designation, we believe the next seven years, after which time there will most likely be another revision of the Standards, will bring new knowledge and understanding of the literacy coaching role. At that time, the research evidence about the coaching role should provide useful information to those with the responsibility of revising the Standards, particularly about how to represent the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach role.

Response to Intervention

During Committee deliberations and in the feedback received by the field, there were questions about how the Standards would address the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act of 2004, which encourages schools to use an approach different from the traditional discrepancy one for identifying students with learning difficulties and also supports early intervention to reduce the number of students qualifying for special education. This federal initiative suggests that school personnel use formal and informal assessment results to decide whether instruction is effective and, if not, to make modifications (e.g., providing additional time, changing approaches, reducing size of group, or providing more specialized help). This initiative requires collaboration among classroom teachers, reading specialists/literacy coaches, and special educators, with each professional contributing ideas for how to make these instructional adjustments.

Although not mentioning Response to Intervention specifically, Standards 2010 is based on the notion that reading personnel must understand how to use assessment tools to understand the needs of students and also have knowledge and understanding of how to modify instruction to meet student needs. In that sense, the users of Standards 2010 will find references throughout the document to the need for candidates to be able to identify students’ responses to the instruction they are receiving and to make appropriate adaptations. We refer users to the work of the IRA (2009) Response to Intervention Commission, which has developed guidelines for the development of such programs in schools.

English Learners

The Standards 2010 Committee is grateful to the subcommittee on language diversity, chaired by MaryEllen Vogt, for its comments about English learners and the need for the Standards to address the needs of these students. As stated by Vogt,

    Addressing the academic and language development needs of students whose home language differs from the language of instruction requires that curriculum and instruction are adapted appropriately to meet English learners’ distinct needs. This involves specific knowledge and an additional set of skills that educators at all levels must develop. Also, it is incorrect to group English learners with struggling readers. Some English learners are struggling readers, in both their first and second language. Other English learners are very competent readers in their first language, but they struggle to read in English because of their particular level of English proficiency. The number of English learners in schools has increased dramatically since 2003 and these students are not monolithically uniform. Certainly, institutions preparing reading professionals have a responsibility to provide knowledge and experiences that will prepare its candidates to effectively teach language minority students. (personal communication, February 2009)

Therefore, in several elements and indicators, there are specific references to English learners; at the same time, whenever there is mention of the need to provide for all readers and writers, we encourage users of Standards 2010 to recognize the importance of providing experiences that address the differing needs of English learners.

Defining the Terms All Students and Struggling Readers

In the Glossary, all students (and all readers) is defined as including all students, from those who are advanced and proficient or gifted and talented, as well as those who may experience difficulty with reading and writing, such as English learners, students with disabilities, racially and ethnically diverse students, and mentally disabled students. There is a basic assumption that reading professionals must be able to address the instructional needs of the entire range of readers.

The term struggling readers also generated many questions and comments from the Committee. For example, as mentioned previously, not all English learners have difficulty learning to read and write; neither do all students who are racially and ethnically diverse. Standards 2010 uses the language “students who struggle with reading and writing” by design to include any student experiencing difficulty in learning to read and write. Our assumption is that the term struggling readers describes behavior and does not imply any specific causes or identify students as belonging to a specific category, such as having a particular learning disability.

Two of the most critical assumptions underlying Standards 2010 is that learning to read and write is complex, and readers and writers are complex as well. To be successful, instruction must be differentiated to meet the needs of individual children and for children sharing a variety of group characteristics. Throughout Standards 2010, you will find language related to differentiated instruction. Several examples in elements follow:

1.3: Understand the role of professional judgment and practical knowledge for improving all students’ reading development and achievement.

3.3: Use assessment information to plan and evaluate instruction.

5.4: Use a variety of classroom configurations (i.e., whole class, small group, and individual) to differentiate instruction.

The assumption of Standards 2010 is that all children are entitled to receive instruction that is effectively adapted to meet their particular needs regardless of the factors that led to those needs. Standards 2010 is committed to developing reading professionals who can deliver appropriately differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Another issue related to students who struggle with reading and writing relates to the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach role. There were comments during the public review that indicated that the Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach role should focus on all readers not just struggling readers. The Standards 2010 Committee agrees with this notion. Reading Specialists/Literacy Coaches may have responsibility for working directly with students who struggle with reading by serving as their teacher. However, these professionals are also responsible for the instruction of all students in their leadership and coaching roles and work with teachers and other professionals to assure that all children are receiving optimal instruction.

Specificity of the Standards

Some comments were made about whether the Standards were specific enough to help users evaluate, develop, and implement programs. A few questioned whether there was enough attention to a specific topic (e.g., phonics or critical thinking). Specificity is an issue that frequently surfaces during standards development efforts. On one hand, professionals want to have a standards document that provides an overview of the knowledge and organizing principles of a field. On the other hand, they also want it to describe exactly what teachers should know and be able to do. Standards 2010 is intended to accomplish the former objective and does not attempt to provide a complete curriculum for the development of the seven categories of reading professionals. Standards 2010, however, is comprehensive and provides users with information essential for program development and review. For example, in element 1.1 of Standard 1 (Foundational Knowledge), the language for the Pre-K and Elementary Classroom Teacher Candidate is specific, as evidenced in the following example:

Elements Evidence that demonstrates competence may include, but is not limited to, the following—Pre-K and Elementary Classroom Teacher Candidates…
1.1: Understand major theories and empirical research that describe the cognitive, linguistic, motivational, and sociocultural foundations of reading and writing development, processes, and components, including word recognition, language comprehension, strategic knowledge, and reading–writing connections.
  • Recognize major theories of reading and writing processes and development, including first and second literacy acquisition and the role of native language in learning to read and write in a second language.
  • Explain language and reading development across elementary years (e.g., word recognition, language comprehension, strategic knowledge, and reading–writing connections) using supporting evidence from theory and research. [McKenna and Stahl (2009) define reading as including word recognition, language comprehension, and strategic knowledge (see the Glossary for their definition of cognitive model of reading).
  • Demonstrate knowledge about transfer of skills from the primary or home language (L1) to English (L2) as it affects literacy learning across these components.
  • Explain the research and theory about effective learning environments that support individual motivation to read and write (e.g., access to traditional print, digital, and online resources, choice, challenge, and interests).

The fields listed in the element are not a randomly compiled list. Rather, they are a carefully determined list of topics about which reading professionals must be knowledgeable if they are to meet the diverse instructional needs of all readers. For example, English learners have distinct linguistic and sociocultural histories that must be addressed to meet their distinct needs.

Technology

The Committee discussed the importance of technology and consulted with several researchers who study the impact of it on literacy instruction and programs. The terms digital and online are embedded in the elements and indicators of Standards 2010 to highlight the importance of technology and the need for teachers to be knowledgeable about the use of it in their classrooms. Specifically, teachers must be able to use technology as they design, implement, and assess learning experiences for students (see International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).

References

Frost, S., & Bean, R. (2006). Qualifications for literacy coaches: Achieving the gold standard. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse website: www.literacycoachingonline.org/briefs/LiteracyCoaching.pdf

International Reading Association. (2000). Teaching all children to read: The roles of the reading specialist [Position statement]. Newark, DE: Author. Available: www.reading.org/General/AboutIRA/PositionStatements/ReadingSpecialistPosition.aspx

International Reading Association. (2004). The role and qualifications of the reading coach in the United States [Position statement]. Newark, DE: Author. Available: www.reading.org/General/AboutIRA/PositionStatements/ReadingCoachPosition.aspx

International Reading Association. (2009). Response to Intervention: Guiding principles for educators from the International Reading Association. Newark, DE: Author. Available: www.reading.org/Libraries/Resources/RTI_brochure_web.pdf

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). The ISTE national educational technology standards (NETS-T) and performance indicators for teachers. Eugene, OR: Author. Available: www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForTeachers/2008Standards/NETS_for_Teachers_2008.htm

McKenna, M.C., & Stahl, K.A.D. (2009). Assessment for reading instruction (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.

Home| About IRA| Contact Us| Help| Privacy & Security| Terms of Use

© 1996–2014 International Reading Association. All rights reserved.