Wolpole S., Blamey K. L. (2008). Elementary literacy coaches: The reality of dual roles. The Reading Teacher, 62(3), 222-231.

Author: Sharon Wolpole & Katrin L. Blamey



Wolpole and Blamey explore the varied roles of literacy coaches with their most recent study of literacy coaches. This article references the work of the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse and the International Reading Association's standards for literacy coaches and their role in defining the work of literacy coaches. Their roles appear to be ever changing and Wolpole and Blamey assert that little current research defines and outlines the roles of literacy coaches. This article provides excellent information for literacy coaches, principals, district leaders and universities supporting coaches on the dual roles that many coaches find themselves facing. This article analyzes a report of literacy coaches in Reading First, which reports that literacy coaches were spending up to 45% of their time on work not related to literacy coaching. Wolpole and Blamey propose a "one-size-fits-here-now" model for the work of literacy coaches and categorize ways in which coaches use their time in a two year multiple case study of 31 participants during the participants' implementation of the Reading Excellence Act (REA) in Georgia. Participants were from 20 different Title I schools; each school had a history of low achievement and high poverty levels.

All schools agreed to three hours of literacy instruction each day, daily read alouds, whole group instruction, small group differentiated instruction and state-mandated screenings. The schools made their own decisions about integrating a reading program and selected their own informal diagnostic measures. The REA plan required that coaches and principals engage in professional development and then choose how to implement literacy change within their buildings. Sharon Wolpole designed the staff development program for participants, focused on research and theory on choosing appropriate curriculum assessments and a staff professional development system. The study used AYP measures to identify growth over the course of the study. In 2003, at the end of the 1st year of the study, 80% of schools made AYP compared to a 68% rate for other Title I schools in the state. In 2005, one year after the study ended 100% of the schools met AYP compared to an 83% rate for the rest of the state (one school had closed at this point). The fact that all participants shared in the same professional development makes this study unique. Data was gathered through constant comparative coding of interviews with both principals and literacy coaches.

Principals viewed coaches as having two primary roles: mentor and director. The mentor role provides support for teachers. Literacy Coaches model instruction and spend time observing teachers and providing feedback on instruction. Principals expressed the importance of the literacy coaches' abilities to build strong, non-threatening relationships with teachers as they worked together to improve the teachers' pedagogical knowledge. The director role defined literacy coaches as "change agents" who helped to guide the entire literacy program and integrate schoolwide literacy efforts with district and state mandates. As directors, literacy coaches coordinated staff development within the school. The literacy coaches felt their roles could be identified as either mentor or director and some participants indicated that they met both roles. Literacy coaches broke down the roles of mentor and director into the following, more specific categories: assessor, curriculum manager, formative observer, modeler, teacher, and trainer. This article provides more detailed information about how coaches categorized their duties and responsibilities. The study expresses an emergence of dual roles for literacy coaches and explains that the roles of coaches may shift along with the needs of the schools; therefore, the phrase "one-size-fits-here-now" offers a way to define the changing roles of literacy coaches.

Date Added: 03/15/2009

Attachment: Wolpole & Blamey Elementary LCs Dual Roles.pdf



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