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Mastering literacy education

A master’s program entering its second year at Drake is aimed at meeting a critical need for teachers who are skilled in literacy instruction.

Due in part to Iowa’s shifting social and economic demographics, the demand has never been greater for teachers who possess skills like those taught in Drake’s Master of Science in Literacy Education curriculum.

This program, which is currently accepting applicants for its second year, gives educators an opportunity to learn new strategies to assist students who struggle with reading. The non-thesis course of study requires a minimum of 32 credits and is also designed for those who desire to become literacy coaches or lead K-12 literacy-based initiatives.

“While we have always been dedicated to the teaching of reading, a full degree offers a higher level of skill development for licensed teachers who serve accomplished and struggling readers,” says Jan McMahill, dean of the School of Education.

Sixteen students enrolled in the first year. The curriculum uses a combination of online and in-classroom courses to emphasize seven core areas of K-12 literacy education, including professional development, urban trends in literacy, writing research and theory, models of literacy instruction, and literacy coaching. Students also gain an advanced understanding of literacy theory and research and learn to use quantitative data to inform their literacy instruction.

“My experience in the program has been outstanding,” says Cole Meyers, AS’09, an English as a Second Language teacher at Harding Middle School in Des Moines and current graduate student. “The schedules are accommodating and the work is challenging. The online classes are authentic and meaningful. They contain a variety of assignments that appeal to various learning styles and avoid monotony.”

Drake’s program prepares educators to teach literacy in urban education systems like Des Moines. Students collaborate with educators from surrounding Iowa school districts to learn the most recent literacy education skills and strategies. Jill Johnson, associate professor of literacy education, says real-world theory application and approachable faculty members are what sets Drake’s curriculum apart from others.

“We have a unique lineup of courses that will prepare educators for what really happens in schools today,” Johnson says. “The program is grounded in partnership and practicality to help educators be successful in their careers.”

The Master of Science in Literacy Education is made possible through an estate gift by Elizabeth Sproul, LA’54, and Helen Hazlett, and through the research of their account executive, John Cashman, BN’79, who selected Drake as the recipient of their gift.

By Paige Zidek, class of 2014