How are reading initiative teachers used in elementary schools? Is there any data to show the impact of reading initiative positions?
Per the FY17 Budget Staffing Guidelines, reading initiative teachers were allocated to non-focus schools based on a 21:1 student to teacher ratio to reduce reading class-sizes for Grades 1 and 2. Schools scheduled a minimum 90-minute block of reading time daily for Grades 1 and 2. If additional time is available, schools have the option of extending the reading time for Grades 1 and 2, or providing reading support to kindergarten students.
The reading initiative teacher position is deployed differently depending on the schools’ needs. The reading initiative teacher may be a full or part-time staff member who provides the daily reading instruction for students. In some schools, they are members of the grade level team and during the reading instructional block take students from a given grade level to form their own reading groups. During each 90-minute block of reading time, the reading initiative teacher provides explicit reading instruction and support to approximately 20 to 21 students, including guided reading, independent literacy centers, vocabulary development, and modeled/shared/guided writing. They also monitor and evaluate student outcomes and provide grades. In some elementary schools, reading initiative teachers have more flexible student groups to support reading instruction. Depending on how a school deploys reading initiative support, the teacher may be the teacher of record for reading/language arts or a regular classroom teacher.
In addition to the reading initiative teacher positions, each elementary school has a variety of positions that support reading instruction, including reading specialists and paraeducators. Every opportunity is provided to ensure that there are available professional learning experiences to build capacity to support reading instruction.
National research suggests that an effective balanced literacy program that establishes expectations for frequency of small group instruction depending on current level of readers has a positive impact on reading. The reading initiative position was one of the staffing allocations designed to provide resources to schools to meet these guidelines.
Although, MCPS has not conducted any recent formal research studies regarding the impact of the reading initiative teacher positions, in October 2000, the Office of Shared Accountability published two interim reports referencing reading instruction. The first focused on the second year (1999-2000) of implementation of the reading initiative in eight schools and the second described grade 2 student outcomes in reading and measurement properties of the Early Childhood Assessment Program (ECAP), a pre-cursor to the MCPSAP-PR, in the context of the reading initiative. The findings indicated a slight increase in oral fluency but not in comprehension.