We present the important and very complicated
roles of the Title I Reading teacher in light of a new instructional
paradigm: teamteaching. Following the 1994 reauthorization of Title
I, Reading teachers often find themselves in multiple professional roles
(Improving America's Schools Act, 1994). Based on observational data
collected in our research on elementary school communities, five major
categories of professional roles emerged (Oboler, 1993; Gupta and Oboler,
1998). We interpret Reading teachers' roles with respect to the new
provisions found in the Interim Report, 1996, issued by the U.S. Department
of Education (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAssess),
and Title I, Part A, Title I of The Educational Excellence for All Children
Act of 1999 (http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/ESEA).
Various dependent roles; such as, resource teacher, mentor, intern,
team teacher, and administrator are subsumed under the title, Reading
Teacher / Literacy Specialist. A teamteaching model for instructing
students at-risk, in compliance with federal regulations, demonstrates
successful collaborative teaching practices to maximize student learning
The purpose of this article is to focus on the changing roles of today's
Title I reading teachers based on changing Title I guidelines in light
of a "teamteaching model." The authors argue that with the
changing dynamics of school environments, Reading teachers' roles are
changing; the roles are more broadly defined. The emerging roles vary
from that of a traditional Reading teacher to a resource teacher, a
mentor, an intern, a team teacher, an administrator/supervisor, a parent
liaison, a staff developer, a committee member, and an evaluator. These
roles are described in this article, citing Title I federal guidelines
and the "new provisions."
Reading is a number one priority in public schools in the United States
and the role of the Reading teacher is changing dramatically. Refocusing
federal legislation and program design for Title I are impacting the
change in roles. Teachers hired as Reading teachers, specialists, are
charged with the responsibility of instructing our students to read.
Over the years, the Reading teachers have worn many different hats.
One such teacher, Rachel, from an urban southwestern elementary school,
discussed the changes in her responsibilities as a reading teacher.
She revealed: "Who I am is changing drastically. When I started
Chapter 1 [now Title I] it was a pullout, basically remedial, small
group instruction" (Oboler, 1993). Rachel made that remark with
much optimism and seemed satisfied with how things were going, but was
somewhat unsure of what the future would hold. More than a decade later,
Reading teachers continue to look to the future.
Today Rachel's comments reflect the still-changing dynamics of the Title
I program. Title I programs in the U.S. serve students at risk of school
failure who live in low-income communities. The program grew out of
President Johnson's, War on Poverty, efforts. Beginning with the passage
of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), federal support
for elementary and secondary education presently totals nearly $8 billion,
reaching more than half the schools in the country. Today 11 million
students are served by Title I in more than 45,000 schools. It is the
most expansive federal investment in elementary as well as secondary
schools; however only one-third of the at-risk student population is
served. Two-thirds of the students are enrolled in grades one through
six (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). For 30 years, Title I has
been helping to improve education for students in low-income areas.
According to the National Assessment of Chapter 1, "Title I"
focused the attention of policymakers and educators on the needs of
poor and educationally disadvantaged children (U.S. Department of Education,
1999; Public Law 89-10).
Every four years the Title I program is subject to reauthorization and
is presently in committee for its year 2000 reauthorization. Reauthorization
of the Title I program in 1996 made some significant changes. One of
the most significant changes relating to pedagogy is the instructional
paradigm shift from the traditional "pullout" model (identified
at-risk students are taken out of the regular classroom to receive remedial
services by a Title I teacher) to a new "inclass / teamteaching"
model ,whereby both Title I Reading teachers and classroom teachers
work with at-risk students in the classroom (Allington, 1993; International
Reading Association, 2000).
Changing Needs, Changing Roles
Current research (U.S. Department of Education, 1999)
supports a changing philosophy for educating children in our schools.
During the late 1980s and continued through the early 1990s the gap
in students' achievement widened. Title I, thereby, was restructured
to focus on the same high standards for all students, highlighting "...a
clear focus on raising standards for all children...," and emphasizing
"...high-quality teaching..." (U.S. Department of Education,
1999). This pragmatic view addresses instruction in classroom work,
rather than worksheets used to remediate students as in a deficit model
of instruction (Allington, 1993). A national effort to bring the Reading
specialist into the classroom is underway. This collaborative teaching
model, we argue, depends on implementing "teamteaching" practices.
Teamteaching is not very new, but is not usually implemented, especially
in elementary schools.
Change in educational practices is slow. Perhaps it needs to be slow,
in order to include every member of the Title I community: specialists,
administrators, parents, and students. Otherwise, in our zeal for quick
educational reform, and to be on the cutting edge, we delegate change
rather than support a bottom-up creation of change (Cuban, 1988). Change
within schools needs to address individual school needs and create an
environment whereby the stakeholders, i.e., the Title I community, may
take ownership of change and have voice in decisionmaking through a
forum for discussion. Title I, Part A (U.S. Department of Education,1999)
proposes the need for all schools to have parent compacts and integrate
family literacy services.
Inherent in the notion of program change is the concept of teacher change.
According to Apple (1986), it is the program that drives the curriculum;
it then follows that it is the teacher who delivers the program. Change
is a socio-political process (Fullan and Steigelbauer, 1991) and the
teacher as implementer is crucial. A program plan is only part of the
change, deciding how the program can best be implemented in a school
addressing its students' needs is a major responsibility for the teachers.
Both, reading and classroom teachers in a school must participate, with
the support and input of the whole Title I community. The Reading teacher
is a key stakeholder in the change process (Oboler, 1993).
A Bird's-eye View of the New Provisions
The preauthorized Title I aims to improve the fundamental
quality of curriculum and instruction for students served through the
program, whether Title I provides services to individual students or
supports whole school reform. Using Title I to support enriching curriculum
and instruction requires that schools:
Use effective strategies to improve children's achievement in basic
skills and core academic areas by increasing the amount and quality
of learning time and emphasizing instruction by highly qualified professional
staff; and Provide students who have trouble mastering established standards
with additional assistance that is timely and effective.
Title I key elements on schoolwide reform are six-fold: (1) maintain
a clear focus on raising standards for all students; (2) strengthen
accountability in districts and schools; (3) reward improvement and
success; (4) increase funding to promote student performance by increasing
state funding from 2.5 to 3.5 % in the 2003-4 school year; (5) emphasize
high quality teaching; and (6) strengthen schoolwide efforts in high-poverty
schools with an emphasis on schools with a 50% student eligibility criteria
(U.S. Department of Education, 1999).
By requiring that Title I schools hold students to the high achievement
standards approved by their state, the law presumes that Title I resources
will help these students to acquire the full range of knowledge and
skills expected of all students. This is yet another area of change.
Title I is no longer intended to operate solely as a remedial program
focused on low-level skills development.
The Roles of the Reading Teacher/Literacy Specialist
A Reading teacher should be a licensed or certified
teacher in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state in
which the teacher is working. Currently, "...all new teachers paid
by Title I or working in a Title I school operating a schoolwide program
would need to be certified in the field in which she/he teaches or has
a bachelor's degree and is working toward full certification within
three years" (U.S. Departmentt of Education, 1999).
A Reading teacher, in addition, has often worked towards advanced professional
development, education, and /or licensure or state certification. The
label, Reading teacher, is not usually held simultaneously by a classroom
teacher. A Reading teacher is often regarded as a Reading specialist.
The nomenclature for a reading teacher varies from literacy skills specialist,
language arts specialist, to a communication specialist. For the purpose
of this paper, the authors use the term "Reading teacher"
throughout the paper because of Title I specifications and use of the
term. The following is a list of five major categories of roles which
evolved from observations of Reading teachers' practices (Oboler, 1993;
Gupta & Oboler, 1998).
I. Reading Teacher/ Literacy Specialist
- Resource Teacher
- Team Teacher
II. Reading Teacher/Parent Liaison
III. Reading Teacher/Staff Developer
IV. Reading Teacher/Committee Member
V. Reading Teacher/Evaluator
The above roles are dependent on Reading teacher and classroom teacher
collaboration in addressing student's educational needs. As a "teamteacher,"
for example, a Title I Reading teacher may model practices (mentor)
while providing resources (resource teacher), or as a Reading teacher
may provide staff development (staff developer) for the school faculty.
In other words, the roles of the reading teacher are all inclusive,
Mostly, the responsibilities and roles of teachers are shaped by the
district office and the school administration based on how district
coordinators/supervisors and administrators interpret compliance with
federal regulations. In addition, the school culture, as a way of life
based in beliefs held by the school community and practices within the
school, often defines how these roles are construed and practiced. Following
is a descriptive explanation of each of the roles mentioned above.
I. Reading Teacher/ Literacy Specialist
The school community regards the Reading teacher as an expert who knows
how to teach reading. As an expert, the reading teacher is often invited
to participate in school committees requiring her/his special expertise.
These committees include curriculum planning, book adoption, and school
reform planning. At times, the Reading teacher's participation is requested
on a "child-study team," assessing special education referrals.
The primary role of the Title I Reading teacher, according to federal
mandates, is described as that of a teacher who works with targeted
students, identifies students, and "uses effective strategies to
improve children's achievement in basic skills and core academic areas
and provides timely and effective assistance" (U.S. Department
of Education, 1999).
Often Reading teachers have professional development or educational
experiences enabling them to provide current research-based alternative
instruction and evaluation practices. As a member of the professional
community, they often are members of professional groups, subscribe
to current journals in the field and are aware of current literature,
software, and activities to enrich learning experiences. They could
be called upon, within the description of this role, to be responsible
- providing staff development, accessibility of materials,
building bridges between colleagues, networking with staff;
- assisting in grant writing, providing workshops for
administrators and awareness sessions for parents and community members;
- diagnosing transferred or new students to school
for initial placement in reading;
- initiating schoolwide reading incentive program (e.g.,
Reading Is Fundamental); consulting with classroom teachers, student
educational evaluators and be involved in additional federal initiatives
such as America Reads or other volunteer tutoring programs.
Reading teachers with many years of experience, working with a novice
teacher may find their roles change from practicing teachers to mentors
for a novice or other experienced practicing teachers. The new roles
might involve role-modeling, directing lesson plans, reflecting on teacher/learning,
updating current practices in instruction and evaluation. This experience
is meaningful for both mentor teacher and teacher intern. An experienced
Reading teacher can be a very effective role model and a resource person
for a classroom teacher by introducing new reading strategies, employing
innovative techniques and addressing current literature.
Conversely, a novice Reading teacher can be an apprentice, learning
on the job from a more experienced classroom teacher. This may involve
learning about classroom management, implementing and adjusting teaching
methodologies with a larger and a more varied group of students. Learning
about integration of content areas across the curriculum would likely
take place during content area blocks, rather than during reading or
language arts. Reading teachers learn about scope and sequence or state
standards for learning in content areas.
The new Title I guidelines emphasize minimal pull-out of identified
Title I children from regular classrooms based on the disadvantages
of pullout (Allington, 1993). The inclass model of instruction promotes
a more positive approach by allowing the Reading teacher to visit the
classroom and work in the classroom team teaching with the classroom
teacher. A variety of instructional methodologies may be used by the
two teamteachers to work with the entire class or only identified, targeted
students. These methods range from parallel instruction, small group
instruction, mini-lessons, individual conferences, students floating
among different centers to complementary teaching (where both teachers
use different aspects of the lesson to be taught) and writing workshops.
These are some excellent ways in which both teachers are effective in
maximizing learning in the classroom.
Teamteaching can be very productive but also very challenging, especially
for the Reading teachers, who are assigned to different classrooms during
a day and work with various classroom teachers who may not be in agreement
with their philosophical beliefs and pedagogical orientations. Flexibility
is the key for both partners. A philosophy that allows teachers the
flexibility to balance their literacy instruction will facilitate reading
development (Boothroyd, 1999). Most importantly, with a strong commitment
to collaborate, teachers can maximize their strengths in knowledge and
The technical issue of serving non-identified students by Title I personnel
in target-assistance schools is an ongoing dilemma for Title I teachers
as well as administrators (schoolwide programs do not have this dilemma
because all children may be served by the Title I personnel). Compliance
with federal regulations requires supplementing, not supplanting (duplicating
services). The "incidental inclusion clause" is discussed
under the heading, "More About New Provisions.
Administrator / Supervisor.
Federal regulations require Title I reading teachers to keep formal
records of all students. The protection of confidentiality is an important
part of this procedure. In target-assisted programs, parent permission
slips are required of every participating Title I student. The standardized
test scores, pre and post test data, as well as other information regarding
final grades, are usually kept in each student's folder. Reading teachers
may be required to submit monthly monitoring forms related to skills
covered in reading each month with each identified child. Goals for
students' instructional development need to match goals as stated in
school's standards as related to state standards.
Some Reading teachers' roles in the classroom may include that of a
participant observer or a supervisor. In a typical situation, the classroom
teacher teaches while the Reading teacher moves among the students or
assists those students who need help with the classroom work. This situation
could occur in an inclass program where the classroom teacher and the
specialist take turns instructing and supervising.
The remaining roles of the Reading teacher: parent liaison, staff developer,
committee member, and evaluator are presented in the following section
through the interpretation of the legislated new provisions.
More About New Provisions and More Reading Teachers' Roles
The U.S. Department of Education includes the following clause called,
Incidental Inclusion (for Target Assisted Programs), and recommends:
A school may provide, on an incidental basis, Title I services to children
who have not been selected to participate in the Title I program. This
would be allowable only if the Title I program:
- Is designed to meet the special educational needs
of the children who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet
the State's challenging student performance standards and is focused
on those children; and
- The inclusion of non-Title I , Part A children does
not - Decrease the amount, duration, or quality of Part A services
for Part A children; Increase the cost of providing the services;
or Result in the exclusion of children who would otherwise receive
Part A services. (U.S. Department of Education, April 1996, Policy
Guidance for Title I, Part A, Improving Basic Programs Operated by
Local Educational Agencies)
Part A of the New Provisions
[The Local Education Agency] LEA establishes multiple, educationally
related, objective criteria to determine which children are eligible
to participate in Part A. Each targeted assistance school may supplement
these criteria and selects, from among its eligible children, those
who are in greatest need for Part A assistance. Children eligible for
Part A services must be from the following population:
- Children not older than age 21 who are entitled to
a free public education through grade 12.
- Children, who are not yet at a grade level where
the LEA provides free public education, yet are of an age at which
they can benefit from an organized instructional program provided
in a school or other educational setting. 1999 legislation includes
a statement regarding preschool children of any age must be included
as long as they will benefit from organized instructional program"
(U.S. Department of Education, April 1996).
- Eligible children are children who are failing,
or most at risk of failing, to meet the State's challenging student
performance standards and subjects must include Reading and/or language
arts. (1999 legislation, Section 111(2)(B)(ii)). A targeted assistance
school generally identifies eligible children within the school on
the basis of multiple, educationally related, objective criteria established
by the LEA and supplemented by the school. (U.S. Department of Education,
Title I legislation (1999) requires family literacy
services in accommodation with parents' work schedules (see Section
125, program elements; ESEA S1205). According to PL103-382, Title I
must provide activities involving parents. Section 5 of the Interim
Report (U.S. Department of Education, 1996) discusses how each school
needs to formulate a plan:
Jointly developed Title I policies: Each Title I
school will jointly develop with and distribute to parents a written
parent involvement policy. In their policies, schools will address
how they will involve parents in a timely and organized way in the
planning and improvement of Title I-supported activities. Policy involvement
includes developing the school-wide plan, establishing school/parent
compacts, and building capacity to support parent involvement. Policies
are also to address how schools will provide parents with information
on expected students' proficiency levels and on the school's profiles,
which present data on academic performance and achievement. In addition,
each school district will formulate jointly with parents a written
policy that involves parents in the process of school review and improvement.
The district policy is to describe how the agency will strengthen
schools' and parents' capacity for parent involvement and coordinate
parent involvement under Title I with other programs, such as Even
Start. Districts receiving $500,000 or more are to reserve at least
one percent of their Title I funds to support parent involvement activities,
including family literacy and parent training programs. The district
is to evaluate its parent involvement policies annually, with the
participation of parent.
Title I school-parent compacts.
School-parent compacts are agreements developed between parents and
school staff to help children achieve success with high standards. The
compacts recognize that families and schools need to work together toward
mutual goals and that they share responsibilities for each student's
performance. The school-parent compact must describe the means by which
schools and parents will develop their partnerships for ongoing communication.
The legislation encourages schools to reach out to parents by implementing
practices that support strong parent participation, such as flexible
scheduling of home-school conferences. Families and the school communities
are encouraged to participate in key decisions about curriculum, instruction,
assessment, and how families can help their children meet high academic
II. Reading Teacher/Parent Liaison
Parent or family member involvement in the learning experiences of a
child cannot be taken for granted. Teachers need to reach out to parents
as much as possible. It is general knowledge that the ratio of teacher
to students is much higher than the ratio of parent to a child. A child
can get more individualized attention at home than at school. Schools
and parents share this responsibility for students' learning. Many parents
respond positively to meeting with teachers, doing learning activities
that are sent home, and following up on teacher's recommendations. However,
the maximum challenge that the reading teachers face comes from a different
segment of family members who are hard to get in touch with. We, as
Reading teachers, can relate to the times when letters were sent home,
phone calls were made, for an upcoming parent conference, refreshments
were provided for and few Title I parents attended. This is the biggest
challenge because new regulations require parent involvement. Meaningful
participation through thoughtful decision-making should be the goal.
Attention should be given to time schedules for meetings, the school
environment, and provisions for transportation. These are necessary
features of successful meetings with parents.
III. Reading Teacher/Staff Developer
Most reading teachers are members of professional organizations, attend
professional reading council meetings and visit state or national conferences.
They, in turn, provide professional development sessions for other teachers.
The Eisenhower Grant, part of the Professional Development Program of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and Goals 2000 both
contain caveats encouraging and requiring staff development for teachers
both within Title I funding and outside of federal funding (U.S. Department
of Education, 1999). A classroom teacher, for example, could benefit
from these workshops and programs although the teacher is not receiving
a salary from Title I funds.
In the Title II Professional Development Program, districts are required
to provide professional development for teachers in Title I schools.
Once again, each teacher within the school is not necessarily salaried
by Title I funds. These schools identified for improvement, falling
below targets for progress according to site-developed plans, are required
to show meaningful professional development activities. One way to fund
this is to use 5% or10% of annual Title I funds.
Professional development should focus on challenging state content and
performance standards, thereby integrating overall reform efforts. This
is a priority highlighted in all parts of the new provisions. In addition
to emphasizing state standards, the legislation specifically allows
states to combine Title I funds for professional development with funds
from Title II (the Eisenhower Professional Development Program) of the
ESEA and Goals 2000. The new law expands the subject areas that can
be supported by Title II beyond mathematics and science when high funding
levels are reached:
Title I funds can be used for a variety of professional development
activities including training school staff to work more effectively
with parents and creating career ladder programs for paraprofessionals
to enable them to become certified teachers. To provide external support
to Title I schools in building their capacity for improvement
(U.S. Department of Education, 1999).
State assistance as well as federal technical assistance is available
and usually provided through support centers. Ongoing support through
professional development activities at school sites is crucial to implement
change (Oboler, 1993; Gupta & Oboler, 1998). Section 119(3) will
amend the 1994 legislation by including a requirement for "high-quality
professional development." Five percent of the Part A grant must
be used for fiscal years 2001-2 and ten percent for following years
in regards to professional development. (U.S. Department of Education,
IV. Reading Teacher/Committee Member
Reading teachers often find themselves serving or chairing various school
committees: child screening, literature review, young author, parental
involvement, curriculum committee. Serving on various committees is
one of the responsibilities of Reading teachers. Their expertise is
widely called upon in reference to book selection, curriculum decisions,
at-risk student selection and so on. In the planning and evaluation
stages, the Reading teacher works cooperatively with the school community.
In schoolwide programs, school planning committees are comprised of
classroom teachers, Reading teachers, administrators, parents, and a
student representative in middle and upper grades. Planned monthly meetings
address school-based issues, i.e., school improvement plans (U.S. Department
of Education, 1996).
V. Reading Teacher/Evaluator
The Reading teacher is responsible for record-keeping and therefore
evaluating the program. The number crunching statistics and the data
collection of teachers' comments and students' work provide both quantitative
and qualitative data. Any inconsistency of student progress and the
justification of the program may create a dilemma. If a student is two
years below grade level in reading and shows progress, according to
results from a standardized reading test, as a 1.5 year growth within
a nine month instructional period, the student is still not performing
"on grade level." The Reading teacher is accountable for success
and failure; the student did not make the grade. The notion of measuring
student performance as a result of standardized testing, limited to
success only if on grade level, shows a lack of understanding of the
learning process. Both students and teachers should be recognized as
successful through the use of alternative measures as well. The current
trend to performance-based tests shows, more accurately, what the students
can do and allows for more descriptive assessments of their work. One
such example is the rubric scoring for testing, showing developmental
levels, and allowing for successful growth patterns as an alternative
to grade levels. Portfolio assessment is another alternative to traditional
testing. The bottom line is to demonstrate growth through student performance
in the learning process.
The Title I Reading teachers are responsible to prepare and submit reports
to the district office. These reports are compiled and presented by
the district to the state and federal investigators for compensatory
programs. In view of the 1999 Title I amendments, more ongoing developmental
evaluations are needed to check adherence to state standards. These
more in-depth evaluations should reveal students' successful incremental
Title I Evaluation and the New Provisions
The U.S. Department of Education recommends the following to evaluation
of the Title I program:
baseline surveys of school principals and teachers,
which will provide the first indicators in the information system,
offering a current snapshot of school-based perceptions of federal,
state, and locally supported reforms and the extent to which reform
efforts have begun to influence changes in staff professional development,
a focus on higher standards for all students, classroom practice,
and parent involvement (U.S. Department of Education, 1996).
Title I (1999) legislation requires ongoing performance
evaluations on students' progress. No longer is an annual standardized
test score adequate. The evaluations, in addition, must match the state
standards for instructional excellence and those in the school's improvement
plans. Section 3 (2) (E) (U.S. Dept. of Ed., 1999) adds a new provision
on accountability. The yearly standardized tests will not be enough.
The Reading teacher will have to be part of the team that oversees a
plan to show continuous improvement as it relates to state's standards.
Research supports that a "well-articulated strategy, is the key
to success" (Stringfield, 1996). Our understanding of reading has
changed. We no longer believe the myth that isolated lessons in reading
produce competent readers. Our present goal is to create literate learning
environments through ongoing language-based instruction. This is best
done through modeling good reading practices for the students. We need
to properly understand the developmental stages of our students as readers
and writers as we involve them in activities to develop toward the conventionality
of reading and writing. In order to prepare Reading teachers for their
changing roles, ongoing supportive staff development at the school-sites
is crucial and change in teacher education programs are needed.
The Reading teacher's success is dependent on the commitment of the
school administration and the partnership of the classroom teacher.
It is, therefore, our attempt to convey the importance of developing
a teamteaching model as described in the article. Together, the new
provisions of Title I legislation and teamteaching model would provide
a supportive environment for the changing roles of Reading teachers.
The changing dynamics of the school culture continues to shape the responsibilities
of educators, including Reading teachers. New responsibilities create
new roles with different expectations. Teacher preparation programs,
particularly the reading programs in higher education must address the
changing roles in their curriculum to better prepare the reading teachers.
These changing roles include new academic, administrative and leadership
challenges. According to the IRA position statement (International Reading
Association, 2000, p. 101), the three major roles of reading specialists'
are instruction, leadership, and diagnosis and assessment. Reading teachers
must be viewed as full-fledged teachers supporting the classroom teacher.
We highlight the need for close collaboration between classroom teachers
and reading teachers. Although the federal Title I legislation supports
teamteaching, it is not mandated. Teamteaching is a model, which supports
the changing roles of the Reading teacher.
|Abha Gupta, Ph.D. in Reading
and Linguistics, University of Arizona,1991. Currently, Dr. Gupta
is the Director of the Reading Center at Old Dominion University,
Norfolk, VA. She has helped to develop an instrument for the Reading
Teachers' exams and has many publications in language development,
literacy, and reading. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Eileen Oboler, Ph.D. in Reading and Teacher
Education, University of Arizona, 1993. Currently Dr. Oboler is
teaching graduate reading courses at Spring Hill College, Mobile,
AL. She is actively consulting for the U.S. Department of Education
and private research institutions, as well as reviewing items
for teacher certification exams. Email:Esoboler@aol.com
Dr. Gupta and Dr. Oboler are commissioned to work
on the Urban Diversity Panel of the International Reading Association.
In addition, both have many years experience as Title I Reading