Jule McCombes-Tolis, PhD, Launches Accreditation Model for Educator Preparation Programs for Teachers of Reading

Fairfield Prof Launches Accreditation Model for Educator Prep Programs for Teachers of Reading

Picture of students listening to a story,

First-grade students at Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport listen attentively to a story read by a community literacy volunteer.

Under the International Dyslexia Association’s (IDA) framework, the initiative is designed to provide all children access to highly trained literacy educators.

The ultimate goal of the accreditation model is to ensure all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to highly trained and skilled educators when it comes to reading and dyslexia intervention.

— Director of Fairfield’s Reading and Language Development Program and chief academic officer for educator training initiatives for the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Jule McCombes-Tolis, PhD

Director of Fairfield’s Reading and Language Development Program and chief academic officer for educator training initiatives for the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), Jule McCombes-Tolis, PhD, recently led a team of national experts to design and launch an accreditation model committed to recognizing educator preparation programs that prepare candidates to meet the competencies set forth in IDA's Knowledge and Practice Standards (KPS) for teachers of reading. 

The KPS explicitly sets forth the knowledge and skills that all teachers of reading are expected to possess to advance students’ reading and writing profiles in classroom, remedial, and clinical settings. These standards recognize that, although programs that prepare or support teachers, clinicians, or specialists differ in their methodologies, teaching approaches, and organizational purposes, they should follow a common set of scientifically-based professional standards for the benefit of the candidates they serve.

This IDA program review and accreditation initiative comes at a crucial time when the demand for educators trained in reading remediation continues to grow. In fact, between 2013 and 2018, the number of states with dyslexia legislation on the books nearly doubled from 22 to 42. This demand for highly trained educators not only impacts children, but school districts as well. Nationwide, districts often find themselves in the position of having to spend precious funding to hire additional, often external, literacy resources. Dr. McCombes-Tolis and her team hope that the IDA program review and accreditation initiative will allow districts to have greater access to educators who are prepared to meet the specialized reading needs of at-risk students and students with dyslexia, when faced with hiring decisions.

“The ultimate goal of the accreditation model is to ensure that all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to highly trained and skilled educators when it comes to reading and dyslexia intervention,” said Dr. McCombes-Tolis. “This initiative has the potential to strengthen school districts’ budgets because districts that prioritize the hiring of IDA accredited program graduates won’t have to spend professional development funds to remediate what should be considered baseline professional competencies. Likewise, districts won’t have to turn so readily to external consultants for guidance concerning how to develop and deliver students’ remedial reading programs.”

Dr. McCombes-Tolis makes clear that there will always be a place for specialized experts in schools; however, she notes, “Children who cannot access these resources should, as a matter of routine, have access to classroom educators, support personnel, and related-service professionals who possess the requisite knowledge and skills to meaningfully impact their reading growth.”

Dr. McCombes-Tolis’ commitment to community partnerships and serving students from urban and priority districts is reflected in the educator training initiatives she leads at IDA. For example, programs seeking accreditation with IDA are encouraged to find creative ways to merge educator preparation with service learning opportunities, such as partnering with local schools to offer students free literacy screenings, comprehensive reading evaluations, or tutoring.

 As an IDA-accredited program, Fairfield’s Reading and Language Development (RLD) program has developed strong partnerships with local schools in an effort to positively impact reading achievement. During the spring semester, program candidates will participate in a supervised reading intervention practicum experience through a partnership with Norwalk Public Schools. New this semester, the program will pilot the use of a remote practicum supervision and coaching platform designed to allow supervisors to conduct additional observations of candidates, provide real-time feedback, and host face-to-face conferences with candidates while simultaneously reviewing time-stamped video footage and evaluation rubrics.

What’s next for Dr. McCombes-Tolis? She is currently working to advance IDA’s accreditation model to be recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Education. A total of 27 core programs, plus nearly 100 designated training affiliates, are currently accredited by the IDA, and 100 are in queue to engage the application process, including programs from Singapore, Italy, Great Britain, and Canada. 

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Last modified: 01-11-19 11:57 AM

20190111

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