UNI teaching model improves literacy learning for children

Teaching students to read can be a complex task. According to the National Reading Panel, teachers need to have a sophisticated understanding of how students learn to read, a thorough understanding of appropriate interventions that can be used to help struggling readers keep up with other students, and an ability to use a variety of instructional strategies to meet the needs of all learners. That's where the University of Northern Iowa's Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy (PCL) model comes in.

PCL emphasizes several key points:

  • Continuous development of teacher expertise through ongoing intensive professional development
  • Ongoing collaboration among teachers and between teachers and administrators
  • A powerful Response-To-Intervention (RTI) approach called the Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM)
  • Literacy coaching as a key leadership position to guide, facilitate, monitor and improve the school change process

PCL is a model of school transformation that focuses on improved literacy learning for all children and has become one of the most successful models of school reform in the nation. UNI's Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy has joined with five other universities in becoming a PCL university training center.

"The feedback [from the literacy coaches] has been overwhelmingly positive," said Rick Traw and Salli Forbes, co-directors of the Jacobson Center. "Coaches in the preparation program this year are an outstanding group of professionals who have delved into the complex and related issues of literacy learning, school change and coaching teachers."

"PCL is helping to expand the work of our literacy education faculty into schools and districts throughout Iowa," said Traw and Forbes.

Currently, the Jacobson Center's work with the PCL model directly impacts 20 network-affiliated schools, seven districts and five Area Education Agencies. In all, more than 15,500 children in 69 Iowa school districts are receiving the benefits of the PCL work during the 2012-13 academic year. The first class of literacy coaches will graduate next month. And the future of the model looks even brighter.

"We will, of course, continue to prepare more coaches each and every year, but the larger context if that this work will continue to support ongoing transformation of schools that implement the PCL model," said Traw and Forbes. "We will continue to provide ongoing professional development and networking for coaches, administrators and their schools following their preparation year. Ultimately, we would hope to touch all Iowa schools, teachers, coaches and administrators."

UNI's College of Education, Richard O. Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy and the Reading Recovery Center of Iowa will host two events April 18 and 19. Visit www.vpaf.uni.edu/events/brc/ for more information.