Seven Attributes of Effective Reading Programs

 

What does it take for a school system to make a difference in the way children are taught to read? Paul Rosier, the district superintendent in Kennewick, Wash., has identified seven key attributes of an effective reading program.

Rosier and co-authors Lynn Fielding and Nancy Kerr describe these more fully in their book, The 90% Reading Goal, published in 1998 by The New Foundation Press.

• Leadership. In every effective program the principal takes an active leadership role. This means the principal has a practical vision that is clearly communicated to the staff. The principal participates in the training, monitors the implementation of the training and materials and carefully assesses the progress of students. Student achievement in reading becomes a central focus of the principal’s time and effort.

A second level of leadership occurs at the teacher level. In highly successful schools a teacher leader works closely with the principal in the development and implementation of the materials and the training. The teacher leader is a key communicator in the school.

• Clear focus. The 3rd-grade reading goal has established a clear target and focus for our schools. A measurable goal provides progress benchmarks that help target instruction. This means that each grade level has a clear understanding of the instructional expectations. All schools need to guide students through a strategic sequence of teacher-directed and student-centered activities. No replacement exists for quality, focused instruction from a skilled teacher.

• Assessment. An assessment system that formally evaluates student progress provides teachers with data to help them evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and educational tools. This system is an important part of any effective program. Teachers in our most effective schools use the assessment data to evaluate student progress and diagnose specific reading issues. The data drives instruction, which in turn drives curriculum decisions.

• Effective early intervention. Good assessment leads to effective early intervention. The intervention is based on best practices research of effective instruction in reading and the skills students need to become independent readers.

• Quality materials. Our teachers need and deserve the best in materials. Instructional materials should be proven materials based on quality research in reading instruction. Teachers should not be the conductors and composers of the reading program. Rather, the art of teaching is in watching students learn and adjusting curriculum appropriately.

• Time. Instructional time is a precious commodity. Do not lose it. Effective schools dedicate between two and three hours to direct instruction in reading each day. The principals and teachers guard this time and no interruptions are allowed.

• A sense of team. Our most effective schools work as a team. Teachers do not see themselves as individual providers of instruction; they view themselves as part of a team. The team agrees on and uses the instructional sequence and materials consistently. They leverage time to maximize instruction for the students who are in greatest need.