Principal Leadership and Reading Specialist Role Understanding In the Era of Test-Based Accountability Policies

Dolores Marie Prezyna, Mark J Garrison, Carol P Gold, Hilary A Lockte


This study investigates how the role of the reading specialist (RS) is defined and communicated by principals, and examines to what degree a common understanding of this role exists among teachers, building administrators and reading specialists. The principal’s responsibility in defining and communicating role, and the effect these efforts have on job satisfaction and specialists’ perceived effectiveness is also studied. Eight elementary schools in the western part of New York State (USA) are studied. Based on interviews with principals and reading specialists and surveys completed by principals, reading specialists, and teachers, the following themes emerge: (a.) Principal leadership was essential in defining the RS role; (b.) A clearly defined RS role was associated with greater RS satisfaction and perceptions of effectiveness as well as greater teacher compliance; (c.) Greater teacher compliance with a school’s literacy program did not affect beliefs about the proper role of RSs; (d.) Lack of a clearly defined role in a school was associated with role conflict and role ambiguity for reading specialists; (e.) Reading specialists, even without coaching responsibilities, served as a resource to teachers, although no time was allocated in their schedule to do so; (f.) Reading specialists faced challenges due to increased accountability and assessment demands affected by policy, demographics, and accountability requirements. It is concluded that principals must assume responsibility for defining and communicating the reading specialist role within their schools to strengthen literacy programming.


reading specialist, principal leadership, literacy coach, role definition, role theory, role conflict, role change

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Copyright (c) 2017 Dolores Marie Prezyna, Mark J Garrison, Carol P Gold, Hilary A Lockte

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