Deussen, T., Coskie, T., Robinson, L., & Autio, E. (2007, June). "Coach" can mean many things: five categories of literacy coaches in Reading First (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007-No. 005). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest. Retrieved from

Author: Deussen, T., Coskie, T., Robinson, L., & Autio, E.



In practice, a literacy coach in one school likely finds their day is filled very differently than another literacy coach in another school. This highly readable research report, which gathered, analyzed, and interpreted information from and about Reading First coaches in five western states--Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming--describes who becomes literacy coaches, and how literacy coaching is being practiced in schools today. This report is well-organized, and an accessible resource for busy teachers, administrators, and coaches. With frequent subheadings and pointed pull-out quotes, this report is easily scanned for important information. In addition, the authors include tables that quantify the time allocation of the five categories of literacy coaching, offering fingertip accessibility for the reader.

According to the report, Reading First coaches in these western states were most often very experienced classroom teachers who had little or no coaching experience. The authors are straightforward about the realities contributing to this situation: They cite the fact that Reading First was implemented a full two years before the IRA released guidelines for the roles and qualifications of literacy coaches. They identify tensions between those guidelines and hiring, training, and recruiting during this time of increased nationwide demand for literacy coaches.

In analyzing what Reading First literacy coaches actually did, the researchers found that while literacy coaches spent their time fulfilling common roles and completing similar tasks, how they allocated their time to those roles and tasks varied widely. They found that Reading First literacy coaches' overall roles fall into five categories: data-oriented, student-oriented, managerial, teacher-oriented (group), and teacher-oriented (individual). The report looks in-depth at each of the five categories of literacy coaches. To understand why a literacy coach might fall into a particular category, the researchers explored three areas of potential influence: the state in which the coach worked, school size, and educational background, experience and training. Interestingly, they found that differences in states were sometimes influential--likely due to how state programs were implemented, and how state resources were allocated within those programs. They did not, however, find significant relationships between school size and coach category, or educational background, experience, and training and coach category.

This is a report that would serve as strong springboard for discussions between coaches, teachers, and administrators who are looking to implement a literacy coaching program, evaluate a current program, or simply reflect on the roles and potential of literacy coaches. It would also be a good resource for any educator who is considering becoming a literacy coach, and who wants to consider what that will, and should, look like in practice.

Date Added: 09/29/2007


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