coachMany districts are lucky enough to have literacy coaches, but what is the best model to utilize these talented individuals? I reviewed the research on literacy coaching and summarized information from various sources to help define the role of literacy coaches in our schools.

The roles of coaches are organized into the four Literacy Coaching standards outlined in The International Reading Association (IRA) report, created in collaboration with NCTE, NCTM, NSTA, and NCSS, that outlines the ideal of what a literacy coach should know and be able to do. Roles under each standard are summarized from the IRA report, A Study of the Effectiveness of K–3 Literacy Coaches conducted by the National Reading Technical Assistance Center, and Literacy Coaches Roles and Responsibilities published in the SEDL Letter.

Standard 1: Literacy Coaches are Skilled Collaborators who:

  • Assess the literacy needs of the school by reviewing student data, curricular goals, student characteristics, instructional practice strengths and areas of improvement, and learning about the needs of the staff.
  • Facilitate small and large group discussions about instructional practices and how they impact student learning.
  • Conduct ongoing evaluations of literacy improvement action and communicate the results to teachers and administrators.
  • Meet with school leadership frequently to discuss goals, progress, and areas in need of improvement.

Standard 2: Literacy coaches are Skillful Job-Embedded Coaches who:

  • Support teachers as they choose curriculum materials and instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students.
  • Link teachers to the most current research in the field of literacy.
  • Model lessons while teacher actively observes. Reflect with teacher after the model lesson. This is not time for teachers to grade papers.
  • Observe and provide feedback to teachers about their instruction in a non-evaluative manner.
  • Reflect with teacher on the observed lesson, linking comments to the needs assessment of the school.

Standard 3: Literacy Coaches are Skillful Evaluators of Literacy Needs who:

  • Help to set schedules to administer and analyze student assessments. Is present during the analysis of data in order to ensure that the assessments inform teacher instruction.
  • Conduct regular meetings with teachers to examine student work and standardize the scoring of writing.

Standard 4: Skillful Instructional Strategists who:

  • Familiar with all Common Core or state standards, educator evaluation protocols, and current research on best practice.
  • Strong subject matter knowledge in the three genres of writing, the writing process, the technical nature of vocabulary, reading comprehension strategies, text structure, language conventions and sentence structure, and critical thinking skills.

When defining the role of the literacy specialist in your school, communicate that role to all staff and ensure that coaches are supported in time management, so they can meet the needs of all teachers. Below is a suggested time breakdown, adapted from one presented in A Study of the Effectiveness of K–3 Literacy Coaches (pg.18).

Role Suggested % of time
Whole faculty development in  school – present best practices, instructional strategies 10
Small group professional development – book groups, review of research 10
Planning needs-based instruction with teachers 10
Modeling lessons while teachers observe 10
Coaching – looking at student work, scoring protocols, reflecting post-observation 20
Data reporting and analysis 20
Knowledge building – reading research, reviewing curriculum 10
Observing teachers 10
What’s the Role of a Literacy Coach?
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