Professional Standards in the Intervention Classroom

“Standards for Reading Professionals—Revised 2010 (Standards 2010) sets forth the criteria for developing and evaluating preparation programs for reading professionals. The Standards describe what candidates for the reading profession should know and be able to do in professional settings. The Standards are performance based, focusing on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for effective educational practice in a specific role. Also, the Standards are the result of a deliberative process that drew from professional expertise and research in the reading field.”

Below is an abbreviated and adapted version of the ILA standards.  That adaptions are an attempt to apply these standards specifically to reading intervention efforts.

Standard 1 – Foundational Knowledge:  [Literacy educators] understand the theoretical and evidence-based foundations of reading and writing processes and instruction.   

Extensive knowledge is the foundation of being an effective literacy educator.  The knowledge is built on an understanding of the developmental reading processes of students PreK-12 blended with a working knowledge of how to diagnose and remediate effectively for students who fall behind.  This knowledge is intended to ensure “ competent performance for the betterment of society.”  In the intervention setting, educators facilitate processes that close gaps so students may have every possibility of productive, fulfilling lives.

Standard 2 – Instructional Approaches: [Literacy educators] use instructional approaches, materials, and an integrated, comprehensive, balanced curriculum to support student learning in reading and writing.

The application of Standard 1 happens through data-driven instruction provided by professionals who apply their knowledge of evidence-based strategy instruction through an effective curriculum. Literacy educators understand the conceptual framework of developing effective reading programs or applying the elements of an effective curriculum.  In intervention, that implementation requires authentic differentiation based on student needs.

Standard 3 – Assessment and Evaluation: [Literacy educators] use a variety of assessment tools and practices to plan and evaluate effective reading and writing instruction.

Professional literacy educators have a comprehensive knowledge of literacy assessment options and the purposes for each.  They demonstrate the skilled use of assessment, the ability to analyze data, and the capacity to communicate findings to stakeholders.  Primarily, the literacy educator uses data to inform instruction for the ultimate benefit of students.  In intervention, this is how specific needs are determined for striving readers.  Limited instructional time must be planned for with intentional focus on a student’s specific assessment data to help a student close the gap as quickly as possible.

Standard 4 – Diversity: [Literacy educators] create and engage their students in literacy practices that develop awareness, understanding, respect, and a valuing of differences in our society.

The interest of an effective literacy educator is to provide students with opportunities to access information and literary experiences that broaden their understanding of the diverse culture in which they contribute and engage. Intervention teachers know that this “broadening of horizons”  builds students’ background knowledge, increases their vocabulary, and encourages a curiosity for a world full of opportunity.  The hope is that increased exposure and awareness also builds better citizens that appreciate the value of all humans in a global society.

Standard 5 – Literate Environment: [Literacy educators] create a literate environment that fosters reading and writing by integrating foundational knowledge, instructional practices, approaches and methods, curriculum materials, and the appropriate use of assessments.

A strong literacy-rich environment can make good instruction even more effective.  In any class, but especially in an intervention classroom with students who have experienced feelings of failure, a safe, low-risk environment with high expectations and highly effective instruction can motivate students to engage and connect to literacy strategies that encourage authentic application of skills. Intervention should allow time and accessibility to resources and more of the opportunities striving readers need. Providing choices for reading and writing based on interest and providing a variety of methods to demonstrate their skills can increase student motivation and self-efficacy while building a more positive self-perception as students enjoy these chances to experience success.

Standard 6 – Professional Learning and Leadership: [Literacy educators] recognize the importance of, demonstrate, and facilitate professional learning and leadership as a career-long effort and responsibility.

Given that literacy is the foundational skill of all learning experiences, literacy professionals are often called upon to share knowledge and support others in the application of effective integration of literacy strategies across disciplines.  When done in an effort to build a culture of literacy, it benefits striving readers by supporting needed skills in authentic ways outside a reading intervention setting.

ILA Standards for Reading Professionals (2010)

Data-Driven Literacy Intervention: the Assessment Process

Using Data to make differentiated data decisions
In my district, our intervention program (more a of an anti-program) for secondary is available for grades 6-9.  That includes all the middle school grades and the first year of high school.  There are reasons for not extending past 9th grade, but that is a whole other post.  Our goals are NOT to keep students eternally in intervention classes, but to identify their needs and reinforce strategies to support complex reading across content areas, so they can continue growth beyond the intervention classroom.  Literacy teachers also work (co-teaching, coaching) with content teachers to support them in using effective strategies for their content. Again, this co-teaching is a topic for a whole other post.  My focus today is on the importance of collecting authentic data.  We can’t begin true intervention without effective data.  We use limited district testing data for entrance and exit requirements, but I deepen that assessment process throughout my limited time with students so that their experience will be a life changing one.  I don’t want students to enter my class with a one-size-fits-all curriculum that doesn’t meet every student’s needs in some significant way.  I want them to enter my class feeling right from the start that I really SEE them.  I want them to exit knowing their ability has been enhanced.  With all that in mind, I focus on three levels of assessment, with an intention that students don’t feel ASSESSED all that time.

A typical student data file.

A typical student data file.

We are three years into the implementation of this intervention process proposed for secondary students.  Through the practice in the classrooms of 24 targeted literacy instructors, including my own lab classroom, we adapt and deepen elements as we grow and learn.  The pre-and post-assessment requirements we ask our literacy instructors to use has stayed fairly stable.  I recognize that different teachers have managed the process in different ways, but the purpose, to provide data-driven, timely, differentiated instruction that meets student needs, has remained the same.

Here is the process as it is still implemented in my classrooms:


I initially assess for three things: student literacy skill, student motivation as it relates to reading specifically and literacy generally, and student self-perception of reading skills.  I assess these elements because these are the areas of change I seek.  I don’t like to overwhelm students with measurement activities, so these are spread out between other introductory activities throughout the first two weeks of class. I chose these specific measurement tools so I can understand each student better.  Most of these resources are recommended by the Reading Specialist Licensure program at Emporia State University.

Pre-assessment we are currently using:

  • MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) –  This is our district’s apples-to-apples growth measuring test. It is how my district generally measures growth starting at 3rd grade.  This is the score on which entrance and exit is determined at this time.
  • QRI (Qualitative Reading Inventory)  – This is my own apple-to-apples growth measurement choice.  The MAP is for the district data needs, but I gain more clinical knowledge on this assessment.  I am currently using the QRI-5, but have excitedly received the QRI-6.   The QRI-5 has always been very effective for me in this setting I’ve developed.
  • Metacognitive Reading Awareness Survey OR Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory – These options are intended to identify what strategies students can already apply.  It also identifies misconceptions about what “works,” which turns out to be the more valuable information.
  • Rhody Secondary Reading Attitude Assessment (Variations on this resource can found in the 5th Ed. of  Improving Reading: Interventions, Strategies, and Resources by Jerry L Johns and Susan Davis Lenski) – With a likert scale  format, this focuses on how a student feels about reading specifically.
  • Reader Self-Perception Scale  (Variations on this resources can also be found in the Johns & Lenski text.) – Again with a likert scale format, students relay their beliefs about themselves as readers.
  • Writing Samples – I ask students to produce one narrative about their thinking on their collected and sorted pre-assessment data and one response about a short piece of text at their instructional level.

At the high school level, I have my students score the surveys for their own knowledge.   I also have them write about what they think the scores on the reading attitude and self-perception scale mean about them as readers, writers and thinkers.  Prompts for writing should be adapted to the age and skill level of the students. Examples may include the following?  What do your response scores tell you about how you feel about reading? What do you think about yourself as a reader based on the scores?   What surprises you?  

There are likely other surveys, inventories, etc.  that will give similar information.  I encourage teachers to find what informs them and their students best.  I encourage teachers to remember that without motivation and a stronger self-perception, the skill development doesn’t tend to stick.  This is especially true for students who have spun through several cycles of remediation/intervention.  It’s all circular.  If you can motivate a student to do the work of skill development and success if experienced,  he gains a stronger self-perception.  This increases motivation and a creates a deepening sense of self-efficacy.  A stronger motivation to continue to grow is a consequence of believing that work is worth the effort.  Perpetuating this process is a big deal for students who have spent too much time feeling like failures.

Every lesson and practice produces data to inform the next instructional choice. Solid differentiated intervention requires constant checks for understanding.  Examples of this daily process can include annotation on text, graphic organizers around thinking/strategies, student strategy journals, workshop model conferences, independent reading conferences, or written reflections (exit slips) about perceived proficiency with a skill, to name a few.  I also regularly track growth on the QRI with an independent version differentiated based on the student’s total comprehension level on the previous QRI assessment.

ILA Blog recently posted this commentary on formative assessment.  Although it is mostly elementary focused, many of the authors’ points are universally applicable.
LINK:  Better Than CBM: Assessments That Inform Instruction

In post-assessment, we repeat everything except QRI.  As I already mentioned, I use a independent version of the QRI through continuous assessment to track QRI growth.  This data carries a lot of weight with me, and even with students, because it shows actual reading skill growth.  I would prefer to sit with students and do a post- QRI process face-to-face, but the time needed is enormous.  I do offer a post face-to-face version to provide growth data for students on IEPs.                   

I make my students aware of their growth and challenges and encourage them to develop goals specific to what they most want to improve.  After each independent QRI, I conference with students (usually during Reading Workshop time) to address recurring concerns.  Students typically WANT to improve, and appreciate knowing what they can do to improve.  At the high school level, part of my goal is to help my students fully understand their strengths and struggles as a reader.   I’ve always attempted to write up a summary of the students data with commentary on the interpretation of that data.  That is a consuming task.  I work streamline it for other teachers to use. This semester, I used a document from Richard Villa called “Cooperative Teaching Student and Class Summary.”  This provides students with my reflection on their growth.  It also allows feedback from content teachers as we work together to improve authentic literacy growth.

One of the last actions my students take before they exit the class is to write an essay about their growth and where they still need to grow.  I do provide a graphic organizer to help students with structure.  The students use the information in their personal data files to develop the essay.   I include easy-to-read comparisons of all pre- and post- assessments, all scores on the QRIs as they grew (which they all do), evidence from all of their strategy work, annotated texts from reciprocal teaching groups,  morphology work, summaries and writing about strategy application, and my own conference notes.   The essay they write is one typed page about what the evidence says about their growth, where they think they still need to grow, and how they believe they will use their new skills in the future.

All of this data collection and application sounds daunting, and it can be, but I try to keep it organized and streamlined.  Management requires staying on top of daily data and making real-time decisions about that data.  Don’t let it build up.  

This is a lot of information.  What parts of this can you implement fairly easily? What other types of assessment do you use to get to know your students and their needs?


The Adolescent Literacy Rabbit Hole

Credited to @RabbitHoleKC

Credited to @RabbitHoleKC

I started teaching in 1997.   My first teaching position was American History with 8th graders at a so called “suburban” school that had the unusual feel of being both urban and rural. Our district border butted up to the second largest urban district in the state, and at this point in the district’s history, it was experiencing the reality of a forced blending of diversity of culture and socioeconomic statuses for which it was wholly unprepared.   I enjoyed teaching in general, at-risk kids especially, but the challenges I had prepared for in college, mostly management concerns, weren’t the challenges that kept me awake or caused me to spend hours planning to teach.  I was surprised to find that the concerns that most plagued my existence were all connected to literacy. A predominant number of my students, probably about 67%, if it was near the the national average,  were non-readers or struggling/striving readers.  Ultimately, what that meant was that they weren’t effectively reading to learn.  When reading a piece of text to glean information and evidence about a topic within my content was the objective, that objective was rarely realized.  From a social studies teacher point of view, and a new social studies teacher at that, it felt like the time spent asking students to read to learn was wasted. I had standards to cover.  I was idealistic; I wanted them to read it, hear it, speak it, write about it, know it, use it.   I wasn’t yet using power points or prezis, flashing historical images from the internet, showing an array of video clips to build background knowledge or encouraging my students to create iMovies or engage in  PBL projects to get them to internalize content.  I could tell a good story, guide a good research project,  and lead a decent discussion or debate.  I could keep my students engaged. I was about collaborative learning before it was cool, but that wasn’t enough.  My students could take notes, have discussions, write mediocre essays without good evidence, and make posters.  Not life skills, necessarily. 

As I looked back on that first year of teaching, I felt a bit confounded about how I would ever help my students “see” and engage in the big picture of this nation’s history without their ability to truly read about it.  I felt that it was essential to be able to read, write about and discuss original documents. I understood the need to bale on the one-size-fits-none textbook and bring in my own sources.  I even wrote or rewrote passages.   No matter how many first-year-level activities I pulled out of my very small bag of tricks, my students needed to be able to read and grapple with difficult texts full of deep and original ideas intended to be grappled with.

I ended that first year of teaching with some successes, but they were mostly relational successes built on my appreciation of teens and my desire to advocate on their behalf.  I doubt one of those students remembers much else about that year.  Those students are in their mid-30’s now.  I still regret what SKILLS they really didn’t develop to help them be the citizens I hoped they would be now.

I spent another year at that school, before leaving to grow child 2 and child 3.  I was granted an English position, which for me meant teaching history through literature.  I was excited for the opportunity to connect literature to time and place and to make connections between the stories that fill our canon and the lives that bore those stories. (My focus quickly shifted from the canon, for those who are worried.) Year one hadn’t killed my idealism.  However, the struggle was real and prevalent no matter what I taught. Adolescents were struggling to make meaning out of all types of text, unless the text was significantly below grade level.  Frankly, many were struggling with texts well below grade level, as well. They had a severe lack of background knowledge and dangerously low vocabularies.   I was not so concerned that they couldn’t understand everything I asked them to read.  I wasn’t even concerned that some read much lower than others or that I would need to take a serious journey into differentiation land. I was concerned that they had no skills in how to GRAPPLE.  They didn’t or couldn’t “struggle with or work hard to deal with or overcome” confusion and challenges as they read.   When asked, they couldn’t tell me what specifically was the problem, why they didn’t understand a sentence, paragraph or passage. Nor did they have any practices of their own to deal with such problems.  More than that,  I was concerned I had no skills to help students, of any discipline, truly use strategies or grow as readers of content text or even as readers in general.  I had taken a “content area reading” class in college like every other education certification seeker.  I even enjoyed it.  However, by my second year of teaching, that felt like an insignificant collection of reading engagement tools that didn’t address the struggle before me.  A list of inquiries began to take hold.  How do I help struggling adolescent readers become better readers of my content, but more importantly, better readers, writers, thinkers in general?   How do I figure out what is tripping students in general and individual students specifically?  What are the processes the brain engages in to learn to read?  What then must the growing, developing brain do to make sense of complex text as it reads to learn?   I was feeling guilty for not having the knowledge or skills to answer these questions.  I once heard someone say, “guilt is the soul’s call to action.”  If that is true, I felt the call.

So that was the challenge before me when my second infant girl took over my world and my brain.   My refusal to leave her and go back to work also produced a hole in my budget.  A friend suggested I take a graduate class, so I could teach something called the Lindamood Reading Process.   By the end of the course, I was hooked.  The instructor of that class invited me to teach for her in a more clinical setting serving children with dyslexia and reading disabilities.  Just as will happen when you give a moose a muffin or a pig a pancake, or in my case, when you give a curious mind a new rabbit hole, a series of events developed before me that changed my life mission. I began a M.Ed program focused on secondary literacy.  Then I returned to teaching in the aforementioned second largest urban district in my state. That turned into a lot of action research and a return visit to graduate school for my reading specialist. The die was cast, and I was off to change the lives of urban adolescents any way I could manage.

What is your story?  Why do you care so much about the literacy lives of teens?  What are the struggles that absorb your thinking about struggling secondary readers?   I would like to hear about the journeys of other literacy-minded educators.

Reasons We Do What We Do

images-4Welcome to Help Teens Read.   This is a bit of test post to get the ball rolling.  Here are few of the quotes that can often be found on the walls of my classroom.

Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant, interesting.
~Aldous Huxley

Reading changes everything.
~ Mike Schmoker

No subject is more important than reading….all other intellectual powers depend on it.  ~Jacques Barzun

I want my students to know that their ability to read and write is a matter of life and death.
~ Rafe Esquith

Think of literacy as a spine, it holds everything together.  The branches of learning connect to it, meaning that all core content teachers have responsibility to teach literacy.
~ Vicki Phillips & Carina Wong, Gates Foundation

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them.
~Ray Bradbury

The man who doesn’t read books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.   ~Mark Twain

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.
~Frank Serafini

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.
~Tomie dePaola

My proper education consisted of the liberty to read whatever I cared to. I read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out.
~ Dylan Thomas

Once you learn to read, you’ll be forever free.
~Frederick Douglass