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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Reading Specialist

In the Department of Health & Behavior Studies

Program Description

The Reading Specialist M.A. program provides students with a broad foundation in applied educational psychology as it relates to literacy acquisition and concentrated preparation in assessment and intervention in reading and writing difficulties. The program provides experience in working with child, adolescent, and adult learners.

Key program characteristics are:

  • Accredited by the International Dyslexia Association for preparing Teachers of Reading.
  • Preparation for two New York State certifications: Teacher of Literacy, Birth-6 and Teacher of Literacy, 5-12.
  • Preparation to work with children, adolescents, and adults with reading and writing difficulties. 
  • Individualized and small group focus: Students are prepared to teach reading and writing to struggling readers both individually and in small groups. This prepares them to provide literacy instruction in pull-out programs, inclusion classrooms, and regular classrooms. 
  • Balanced literacy focus: Integration of rigorous, evidence-based phonics training with authentic literacy-encompassing word recognition, reading comprehension, fluency, vocabulary development, spelling, and expressive writing.
  • Assessment and intervention focus: Students learn to deploy a battery of classroom-based and standardized assessment measures to identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students and groups and then to develop an intervention plan based on the assessment findings. 
  • Preparation to diagnose dyslexia: Students learn to administer a battery of standardized tests and formulate a diagnosis.
  • Psychology focus: Understanding of typically developing and delayed literacy development from the vantage point of cognitive processes and their relation to race, ethnicity, language proficiency, and  socio-economic status.
  • Research focus: Emphasis on evidence-based (scientifically based) intervention strategies for struggling readers.
  • Lifespan perspective: Students learn to deliver assessment and intervention to individuals from preschool emergent literacy through adolescence and adulthood. Students learn to develop content-area literacy interventions. Adults include adult literacy students and college dyslexics. It is never too late to improve literacy skills.
  • Clinical experience: Students take practica in a clinic at Teachers College where they deliver services to struggling readers of all ages, who come from low-income households.
  • School experience: One practicum may be taken at the student’s own school or another selected school.  
  • Professional development focus: Preparation for professional development in advanced seminar as well as in graduate assistantship.
  • Full-time students (four courses in each academic semester and summer courses) can be in residence for one calendar year and complete the final, advanced practicum via distance learning option where feasible.
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