their own prior beliefs about teaching reading. Second, the case study readies novice teachers to accept the challenge of teaching reading in a classroom where students have varied ability.
We believe a tutoring or case study experience would have even greater benefits for experienced middle school teachers. Studies of experienced teachers tutoring (Broaddus & Bloodgood, 1999; Fogg & Morris, 1997; Morris, Ervin, & Conrad, 1996) described the increased import teacher-tutors placed on the instructional components critical to a multidimensional literacy program. The teachers commented on how much students were able to accomplish with focused intervention even when these same children had experienced little or no success in classroom literacy activities. Reading fluency, guided reading, word study, and writing not only became a framework for tutoring sessions, but also were reconsidered and refined in classroom instruction. The personal contact of tutoring was viewed as a key factor by the teachers. Also, the one-on-one instruction afforded teachers the opportunity to look closely at the individual strengths and needs of students and the effects of different teaching practices.
Overall, developing a personal relationship with a less skilled reader changed teachers' views about accepting the challenges of teaching reading and writing to students who were working below grade level. Given middle school teachers' discomfort and apprehension about meeting the needs of struggling readers and about differentiating instruction, this is a particularly important finding.
Even with appropriate training and support, the question still remains as to how middle school teachers can have a tutoring experience when the school schedule does not provide time for it. We can conceive of two possible solutions.
First, middle schools can creatively block time for one-on-one instruction. For example, middle schools that operate under a teaming system often schedule both an individual planning period and a team planning period for each teacher. We argue that at least one portion of one of these planning periods could be devoted to tutoring one struggling reader, since even just 30 minutes each day with one student would substantially benefit both the student and the teacher.
Second, teachers can reconceptualize regular classroom instruction in ways that allow them to work with individual students, even if they do not get to work with any particular student on a daily basis. In short, this means minimizing whole-class instruction in favor of flexible grouping or workshop approaches whereby the teacher can have closer contact with individual students and circulate among students as they go about their reading and writing tasks. It does not mean that teachers help students complete whole-class assignments in which everyone in the class is expected to read the same materials, answer the same questions, or create the same product. Rather, teachers would act as mentors and facilitators who help students along as they complete tasks that are individually appropriate and personally relevant.
Align instruction to readers
Our message in this article is simple and should be commonsensical. Neither middle school students nor their teachers are served well by the reading programs we currently have in place, and studies of young adolescents as readers clearly illuminate the reasons for this dissatisfaction. An obvious first step toward improvement is to better educate new and experienced teachers about how to create skillful, engaged readers. We have proposed a framework for teachers to reflect upon that is based not on an established curriculum or on conventional wisdom of what middle school reading ought to be, but instead on evidence about who middle school students are as readers.
Certainly, classroom teachers do not carry the burden of improving middle school literacy instruction alone. We agree with Vacca (1998), who eschewed the general neglect of adolescent literacy that is evident in "educational policy, school curricula, and a public mindset that doesn't appear to extend beyond learning to read and write in early childhood and elementary school" (p. 605).
We challenge administrators to make sound decisions about their reading programs. One broad, underlying problem may be the ambiguous place of reading in middle schools. For instance, some schools have a separate reading period, while in other schools reading is subsumed under the language arts block period. Also, in some schools every teacher, regardless of content specialty, teaches one class of reading during