Building middle school teacher capacity to implement reading comprehension strategies for improved student academic performance

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Samantha Taylor Sircey (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Jess Weiler

Abstract: In the middle school setting, reading is a requirement if students are to access the curriculum and demonstrate content proficiency. By grade three, students are expected to read on grade level, but by middle grades (7-8), some students still struggle with reading for comprehension. In addition, some middle school teachers struggle to implement effective reading supports. There are several reasons teachers fail to implement reading during instruction: teachers view reading as the responsibility of the English/language arts teacher, and not an instructional expectation in other content areas, teachers see reading supports as content specific and not cross-curricular, or teachers simply do not have the capacity to implement reading strategies. This instructional deficit leads to lower student achievement in all content areas due to the students’ inability to read for comprehension, and therefore, access the content.To address the problem of a lack of student reading comprehension skills and to improve student reading performance, this improvement initiative provided on-going, embedded professional learning supports to teachers so as to build their capacity to implement a reading comprehension program into instructional practice. This disquisition examines one middle school’s efforts to improve student reading performance by building the capacity of all teachers to implement reading instruction. The Hawk 5 program, created by the NBMS leadership/design team, includes the school-wide implementation of the reading strategies toolkit following a prescribed instructional timeline and was modeled after a similar program used in the Anchorage School District (Goodman, A., 2005). Students learn and use the 5 individual reading strategies, with teacher support and instruction, to perform reading comprehension tasks over a 10-week timeline. At the end of 10 weeks of this immersion instruction, the students were able to independently select the strategy that best fits the assigned reading task. To build the capacity of every teacher, the initiative also provided targeted professional learning supports following the standards introduced by Learning Forward ( This improvement initiative provided 10 embedded teacher-learning supports that reflect the standards for professional learning ( Following 7 months of implementation, a mixed-methods evaluation of the improvement initiative was conducted using quantitative and qualitative analysis of teacher perceptions on the impact of the capacity-building program on their own professional growth. Data analysis revealed that the chosen process for embedded capacity development and support increased teacher capacity. Improved student academic performance as a result of increased capacity cannot be directly correlated amidst the large number of contributing variables.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
middle grades reading, middle school instruction, middle school reading strategies, professional development, professional learning, reading instruction
Middle school teachers -- In-service training -- United States
Reading comprehension
English language -- Remedial teaching
School improvement programs
Middle schools -- North Carolina -- Buncombe County

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