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How Effective Are Literacy Coaches?

Literacy coaches are making sure classroom teachers have all the skills they need to teach reading and writing.

If you struggle to read and write, you can’t fully function in the modern world—which is why K–12 literacy education is more important than ever. And it’s why many schools now give classroom teachers extra help in teaching reading and writing. In some cases, this extra help is in the form of resources such as digital literacy assessments. But perhaps the most effective help comes from literacy coaches.

What Is a Literacy Coach?

In her book The Literacy Coach’s Survival Guide, education expert Cathy Toll defines a literacy coach as a professional “who helps teachers to recognize what they know and can do, assists teachers as they strengthen their ability to make more effective use of what they know and do, and supports teachers as they learn more and do more.”1 In short, literacy coaches help teachers learn how to more effectively improve student literacy.

How Effective Are Literacy Coaches?

Literacy coaches are experts in adult education. Rather than simply teaching teachers, they collaborate with them to help them improve their ability to teach literacy. This can include everything from training teachers on literacy assessments and reading assessments to working one-on-one with a teacher to solve specific student or classroom literacy issues.

What Makes a Good Literacy Coach?

Not everyone is cut out to be a literacy coach. Success depends on the right training and the right combination of intelligence, creativity, leadership, and empathy. According to the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse, effective literacy coaching:2

  • Involves collaborative dialogue for teachers at all levels of knowledge and experience.
  • Facilitates development of a school vision about literacy that is site-based and links to district goals.
  • Is characterized by data-oriented student and teacher learning.
  • Is a form of ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that increases teacher capacity to meet students’ needs.
  • Involves classroom observations that are cyclical and that build knowledge over time.
  • Is supportive rather than evaluative.

How Effective Is Literacy Coaching?

There’s a reason coaching has become popular in many professions: It works. And evidence shows it’s particularly helpful in literacy education.

In its comprehensive study of literacy coaching, the National Reading Technical Assistance Center concluded that coaching makes a difference and found evidence to suggest there’s a “positive and significant relationship between coached teachers and student achievement gains.”3 Other studies have come to similar conclusions,4 meaning that literary coaching is likely to become an increasingly important part of literacy education.

How Can You Become a Literacy Coach?

Becoming a literacy coach requires an advanced set of professional skills and an ability to assess what does and doesn’t work in education. While you can gain some skills on the job, certain knowledge can only come from a top education degree, such as an education specialist degree (EdS degree), a Doctor of Education (EdD degree), or a PhD in Education.

There are three degrees in particular to consider. The first is an EdS in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment, an upper-level professional degree that can help you learn how to influence growth in reading and literacy. If you want to go a step further, a Doctor of Education with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment provides doctorate-level knowledge and credentials and can help you develop skills and strategies to improve reading and curriculum outcomes across the educational spectrum. The third degree is a PhD in Education with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation. Unlike the professional focus of the EdS and EdD, the PhD degree is academics-focused and a great choice if you want to develop literacy-related research projects and critique significant research.

The good news is that no matter which degree you choose, you don’t have to upend your life to earn it. That’s because all three degrees are available through online learning platforms. Instead of requiring you to move to be close to an EdS, PhD, or EdD program, online universities allow you to complete the majority of your work from home, via the internet. In addition, an online EdS program, online EdD program, or online PhD program gives you the power to choose when in the day you attend class—a top reason so many working adults choose online education.

Literacy coaches are helping to improve the way schools teach reading and writing. With the right online degree program, you can gain the skills and knowledge you need to help in the effort.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an EdS in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment program; a Doctor of Education program with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, and Assessment; and a PhD in Education program with a specialization in Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation, all online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,