Building Educator & Administrator Capacity


Educators and other professionals must be trained and skilled in reading assessments and structured literacy methodology to ensure equitable access to learning for all Wisconsin students. Dyslexia-specific training at the school level is also critical.

Most undergraduate and graduate teaching programs in Wisconsin have not yet integrated the Science of Reading. School districts must consistently invest in professional learning about the Science of Reading for all staff. High-quality training in structured literacy is available in a variety of formats to meet the needs of all districts.


The Partnership for Reading highlights the importance of school administrators in creating the framework for success critical to literacy outcomes. Instructional leaders ensure the vision becomes reality for all students by intentionally addressing several system factors.

Every school should have:

A Comprehensive Literacy Plan that:

  • Is grounded in scientifically based reading research

  • Aligns all components of the literacy program, including reading & writing assessment, instruction, and intervention with program goals, resources, and staffing

  • Seamlessly organizes reading assessment, instruction, and intervention

High Quality Reading & Writing Instructional Materials that:

  • Include highly explicit and systematic instruction

  • Are geared to the specific needs of the children within the school population

High-quality Initial Training and Ongoing Staff Development that:

  • Includes foundational concepts of learning to read

  • Uses selected instructional materials

  • Uses assessment data to make appropriate and effective instructional decisions

  • Focuses on application of evidence-aligned reading assessment, instruction, and intervention practices

Adequate Uninterrupted Time for Reading Instruction, which:

  • Provides sufficient time scheduled in cohesive blocks

  • Supports additional instructional time for differentiation and intervention as needed

A Reading Assessment System that:

  • Uses valid and reliable system and classroom reading assessments

  • Systematically tracks student progress throughout the school year

  • Consistently determines whether goals are being reached by the expected time

  • Provides intervention when student progress is not adequate, rather than when student achievement is not at desired levels

  • Identifies and targets specific skills students require for additional instruction & intervention

Resources and Training for Literacy Leadership

Educators are supported through training and coaching to deliver high quality instruction in inclusive, well-managed learning environments.

Wisconsin’s Framework for Equitable Multi-Level Systems of Supports (8)

Getting Started

The Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (KPSTR) include the information and skills that education professionals need to effectively teach all students to read (International Dyslexia Association, 2019). Professional development should align to the KPSTR.

When selecting a training option, some possible questions to ask regarding structured literacy training include:

An advantage to selecting an accredited program is that teachers can expand their program-level certification by receiving an additional nationally recognized certification. Teachers can’t obtain a nationally recognized certification if their initial courses were not accredited (Cork and Wagner, 2015). In addition, accredited programs may be eligible for federal and state funding.


Creating a tiered system of expertise in reading assessment and instruction supports sustainability. School districts should intentionally invest in and maintain certified trainers along with initial and advanced level certified practitioners. Training is not the same thing as certification. High quality certifying programs also require continuing education for certified individuals. Certified educators can support school systems in many ways, including:

  • Certified trainers provide initial and ongoing professional learning within the district.

  • Advanced-level certified teachers provide accessible support for teachers with initial-level certification or in training.

Who Should Become Certified?

Every teacher in every building who is responsible for teaching reading should understand and apply the Science of Reading. The level of training required depends on the needs of the population served and the role of the educator. A Tier 3 teacher who serves students identified with a specific learning disability in foundational reading skills or reading fluency will need a higher level of training than a classroom ELA teacher.

Tier 2 and 3 instruction for all students who display potential characteristics of dyslexia should be provided by any of the following:

  • An IDA Tier 3—Level I—Certified Dyslexia Practitioner

  • An IDA Tier 3 - Level II—Certified Dyslexia Therapist

  • A graduate of an IDA accredited program

  • An ALTA, AOGPE, or Yoshimoto O-G International certified tutor; or graduate of an IMSLEC accredited program

Schools or districts can have someone certified at the Instructor of Teaching or the Fellow level so they can provide in-district training to their staff. The following are three options:

  • Hire a certified trainer from an IDA accredited organization to train your teachers and complete their practicum in classrooms in your district.

  • Hire a certified trainer from an IDA accredited organization to train your teachers and complete their practicum at their accredited training site or pass the KPEERI Exam.

  • Hire or train an educator to conduct in-district training and practicums. Apply to become a certified training site.

Hiring Reading Teachers— What Should We Look For?

Before hiring, one should confirm the prospective teacher has the appropriate certifications and knowledge to work with children with dyslexia. This can be done by checking the certification of an individual as well as asking interview questions to confirm knowledge competency.

Interview Questions:

  • Where did you receive your training? (Be sure it included a practicum with feedback.)

  • What are the five essential components of effective reading instruction and how do you incorporate them in your teaching?

  • What do you include in your multisensory lesson plan?

  • How do you keep track of data from each lesson?

  • What assessments do you use? Why?

You may want to include questions related to the structure of English to confirm that the prospective teacher has a solid understanding of the content. For example, you could ask, “How would you introduce a new morpheme to a student?”

Other Possible Requirements:

  • Some districts require a prospective employee to complete a lesson while being observed.

  • The candidate could be required to submit a lesson plan they previously taught with student work included (with the name of the student redacted).

Possible Incentives for Staff Members to Train in Structured Literacy

It may be challenging to find all the trained staff you need; incentives to train in structured literacy may be helpful. Consider:

  • Paying for staff to attend conferences relevant to structured literacy (e.g. IDA, ALTA, AOGPE, Reading League)

  • Paying for staff application fees for AOGPE or to sit for the CALP/CALT exams

  • Paying annual dues for AOGPE, ALTA, CERI memberships

  • Paying staff hourly rates for Extended School Year Services at a rate commensurate with their level of certification

Additional Supports for Providing Services to Students with Dyslexia

While building capacity of in-house trained staff, districts may need to hire additional certified staff to meet the needs of their students with dyslexia.

Districts can explore:

  • Resources for finding ALTA certified staff

  • Resources for finding AOGPE certified staff

  • Resources for finding IDA certified staff

Commonalities Across Districts: Educator Training

Looking across the districts that informed this guide, the following conditions largely hold true, and may prove helpful in others’ planning:

  • Very few to none of the districts’ teachers had training in structured literacy approaches in the beginning, and hence didn’t have the tools to help their students narrow the gap.

  • Most have made broad participation in structured literacy training voluntary, offering an “invitation to staff” to train.

  • Districts have the expectation that intervention specialists are required to train in structured literacy.

  • Districts set goals to have certified intervention staff in all school buildings.

  • Substitutes are used to free up, for example, intervention specialists for in-house training.

  • Structured literacy training is delivered at the district’s expense.

  • Some version of an in-district trainer or program is in place, and evolving staff are expected to successfully meet the teaching practicum expectations.

  • Trainers establish ongoing professional relationships with trainees, leveraging connections long after, for example, a practicum has been completed.

  • Staff earn certifications.

  • Districts provide or arrange for graduate course credit.

  • Districts invest in staff certifications that sometimes end up benefiting other communities as educators change employers.

  • While it’s an extra and often heavy load to carry in achieving the pinnacle of certification, there are very few individuals that don’t want to do it-- and they are extremely happy after having certification in structured literacy.

  • On a daily basis, staff have the amazing opportunity to see children read for the first time, to maximize their reading/spelling ability, to apply for college and to reach for dreams which may not have been available to them in the past (Arganbright and Duty, 2019).

Change Management

When you address educator training, you are addressing human development. Individuals arrive -- or do not arrive -- at change in very personal, identity-driven ways. It’s important not to lose sight of this fact.

Establishing a sustainable system of supports relies on stakeholders working together and holding each other accountable toward a shared goal of success for every learner.

Collaboration in an equitable multi-level system of supports occurs through intentionally designed linked implementation teams and shared goals within and across teams. Each team oversees implementation and gauges effectiveness of particular aspects of the system. For example, building leadership teams are concerned with system-level excellence and equity, whereas learner problem-solving teams focus on planning and monitoring support for individual learners. A process for fluid structure and regular flow of information among and across teams helps the separate parts of the system work in unison.

The complex work of improving outcomes for all and eliminating inequities depends on authentic dialogue, learning, and planning among learners, staff, families, and the community. Each partner plays an important role in collaborating for learner success, as described below.

Wisconsin’s Framework for Equitable Multi-Level Systems of Supports (11 - 12)

In a blog by Marnie Ginsberg, a critical point related to managing the shift to the Science of Reading is well-made. Under the banner Attract More Flies with Honey, Ginsberg (2019) notes that “If the water that teachers are swimming in is balanced literacy and the 3-cueing system, confusion and fear are obvious reactions to being scolded for not using research-based strategies. As reading teachers, leaders, researchers, and advocates, we need to tread cautiously and sensitively into conversations with those awash in the balanced literacy worldview.”

The blog goes on to direct attention to Margaret Goldberg from the Right to Read Project, who aptly notes the differences in the ways voices for balanced literacy vs. the SoR can make classroom teachers feel. Goldberg reflected on her own transition, saying:

“I understand why advocates, researchers, and policymakers who feel the urgency of our literacy crisis are frustrated when teachers don’t embrace reading science. But my entry into the world of reading research was difficult, and while I take pride in my determination to learn, I understand why other teachers might be deterred. If we want teachers to apply research, it may be helpful to think about why they aren’t. I’ll open my own experience up as an example” (Goldberg, 2019).

Chart from Goldberg's article Teachers Won’t Embrace Research Until It Embraces Them (2019). Image shared with permission from International Dyslexia Association Central Ohio.

Chart from Goldberg's article Teachers Won’t Embrace Research Until It Embraces Them (2019). Image shared with permission from International Dyslexia Association Central Ohio.

Goldberg’s experience should inform our larger approach to change, and our everyday conversations with those committed to our children.

Shared Leadership

This building of capacity at all levels across multiple professionals for the student with dyslexia is a defining contributor to student success. In districts that are successful in mobilizing the SoR, reading is everybody’s business (Duty, 2018).

Blurring the lines between instructional tiers (I, II and III) and professional titles can serve children best. Consider how this impacts training. For example, while reading specialists provide most of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing Tier II interventions, so can classroom teachers, speech-language pathologists, and intervention specialists. Taking a collaborative team approach removes the “turfdom” in reading. Specialized instruction can occur across all tiers. This feathering out of services and vertical alignment of programming, in turn, allows intervention specialists to better streamline their special education caseloads, providing more robust services to students on IEPs with the most severe reading needs. True collaboration and a common vision is key-- as is supporting the structures that support the teachers.

Ask yourself: What training are principals getting? Shared leadership is needed across multiple levels to ensure that sustainable systems and structures are in place to facilitate effective and efficient reading instruction for all levels of learners. This includes achievement and fidelity assessments, allocated time for instruction, instructional materials, accredited training, coaching, feedback and support systems, and data-based problem-solving processes at all levels.

Podcasts & Videos


Arganbright, M., & Duty, L. (2019, July 3). First in the nation: Olentangy Schools earns recognition for program serving struggling readers and learners. International Dyslexia Association.

Duty, L. (2018, November 8). Marysville Schools leading the way: Evolving best practices for learners with dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association.

Ginsberg, M. (2021, April 23). Insights from the Reading League Annual Conference 2019 - Reading Simplified. Reading Simplified - Streamlined Instruction, Accelerated Achievement.

Goldberg, M. (2019, July 19). "Teachers won’t embrace research until it embraces them." Right to Read [blog].

International Dyslexia Association, Central Ohio. (2020, November 2). Dyslexia screening, intervention, and teacher training roadmap 1.0: A guide for school districts serving learners with dyslexia.

Jones, S., Burns, D., & Pirri, C. (2010). Leading literacy change. Cambium Learning.

Montgomery, P., Ilk, M., & Moats, L. C. (2013). A principal’s primer for raising reading achievement. Cambium Learning Group/Sopris Learning.


Figure 1. Goldberg, M. (2019, July 19). Adapted from “Teachers won’t embrace research until it embraces them.” Right to Read [blog].