Removing Barriers and Paving the Way: The School Leader's Role in Using the Science of Reading to Improve Outcomes for All Students
by Dr. Stephanie Stollar on March 30, 2023
School leaders hold the keys to unlocking literacy for young learners. However, like other educators, many school principals don't have deep knowledge of how the brain learns to read, effective instructional practices in the essential early literacy skills, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and identifying and serving students with reading disabilities. Principals not only need knowledge in these areas, but they also need to know how to implement the processes and structures that pave the way for improved reading outcomes.
School leaders make the hard decisions about selecting and implementing reliable and efficient assessments for screening, diagnostic assessment, and progress monitoring. This is one of the critical first steps because it reveals student performance on the essential early literacy skills (phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, and reading comprehension) which distinguish children who are on track from children who are likely to need more support.
School leaders ensure the use of data in a collaborative problem-solving process that directly impacts decisions at the building, grade, and student levels. A systemic approach to using data to efficiently match student needs to instructional systems is the defining feature of MTSS.
School leaders must prioritize their own professional learning and the learning of others. Knowledge of how proficient reading and writing develop; why some have difficulty; and how we can most effectively assess and teach reading and writing allows schools to improve student outcomes through prevention of and intervention for reading difficulties.
School leaders have the authority to prioritize time for classroom reading instruction and the extra dose of intervention needed by struggling readers. When student data drive the daily schedule, principals can identify and remove potential barriers related to grouping practices, instructional materials, and staff allocation.
We Can Do This!
School leaders…reading failure can be prevented! Last week, my colleague, Sharon Dunn, and I presented a webinar Bringing the Science of Reading to Light Using MTSS: One School's Story and you can watch at your convenience here.
Dr. Stephanie Stollar is the former vice president for professional learning at Acadience® Learning Inc. She is an adjunct professor in the online reading science program at Mount St. Joseph University, and a founding member of a national alliance for supporting reading science in higher education. Dr. Stollar has worked as an educational consultant, a school psychologist, and an assistant professor in the school psychology program at the University of South Florida and has provided professional development for teachers for the past 25 years. Dr. Stollar is a co-author of Acadience® Reading K–6, Acadience® Reading Survey, and Acadience® Reading Diagnostic. She has conducted research in the areas of assessment, early intervention, and collaborative problem solving. As a member of the board for the Innovations in Education Consortium, she collaboratively plans the annual MTSS Innovations in Education Conference