the day, while in other schools reading instruction is relegated to the reading and language arts teachers. Schoolwide reading initiatives, such as Drop Everything And Read (DEAR), are often scheduled for times other than reading and language arts classes, such as during homeroom where students may have neither access to interesting reading materials nor teachers who are equipped to provide a motivating environment for reading.
In addition, pressures from high-stakes testing create confusion over what ought to be taught in reading programs. In our recent work in reading and language arts classrooms we have observed teachers not only teaching skills for taking comprehension tests, but also covering topics and content that appear on test passages as opposed to focusing on the kind of instruction that would lead students toward becoming lifelong, independent readers. Although the place of reading instruction may depend upon a variety of factors, such as school structure and student needs, we are certain that those who are responsible for instruction should have a substantial amount of training in teaching reading and particularly in helping students who struggle with reading. Furthermore, reading instruction ought to focus on reading for a variety of purposes, not just for taking tests.
We also invite teacher educators to evaluate how they prepare middle school teachers to create student-responsive reading instruction. For beginnings, we see a need for more reading coursework for students seeking middle school certification. While the number of middle schools offering reading programs has increased significantly in recent years, a national survey (Romine, McKenna, & Robinson, 1996) showed that reading coursework requirements have increased only modestly. Most states do not require any reading coursework for middle school certification, and for those that do, the focus is on content area reading. Few states require a course in developmental reading for middle school teachers despite the wide range of achievement among young adolescent readers and evidence they are still acquiring essential reading skills. Likewise, these teachers may receive limited support for improving reading instruction, as evidenced by a survey in one state indicating that many middle school teachers receive no planned staff development in reading (Humphrey, 1992).
Nevertheless, as teacher educators and researchers, we see obvious potential for change, particularly if we want to align instruction with what research has demonstrated about young adolescent readers. No program or prescriptive curriculum will meet the needs of the wide range of readers in middle school classrooms. Rather, we need knowledgeable, reflective middle school reading teachers who are experts at tailoring the fit.
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