Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Henk, William

Third Advisor

Chubbuck, Sharon


There is a lack of research on how Wisconsin's high schools are addressing the literacy needs of their students. State Statute 118.015 requires a district reading specialist, but there has been very little research done on compliance; therefore, the first phase of the study was to collect and analyze both demographic and descriptive data via a survey to determine compliance with the Statute, focusing specifically on the secondary level. It is argued that a careful, in-depth study on the role of the secondary reading specialist is needed to understand the current use of professionals in this role. While there is a dearth of research on the role, the research that does exist demonstrates the lack of consistency in role definition. Thus, the second phase of this research was to construct a case study of the role of a reading specialist, Donna, in the context of the high school. The goal was to develop a deep and rich understanding of her role.

A qualitative research design was used because the use of an inductive approach was best suited to the development of a case study. The study was conducted using the constant comparative method in which interviews and observations provided the basis for further investigation and elaboration. Key themes and sub-themes were identified through inductive analysis. Four major themes emerged. The first is the lack of compliance with State Statute 118.015. The three others are the lack of definitive licensure for the evolving role of the high school reading specialist into that of coach, the lack of clear definitions and role responsibilities, and the importance of features that distinguish high schools from elementary or middle schools, thus making them unique.

The present study explores the theoretical shift taking place in the role of the reading specialist in reading and literacy in the 21st century, from an intervention focus to a more broadly defined, schoolwide, professional development model. The results of this study indicate that this shift is resulting in a wide variety of opinions as to the direction of the role; thus, this balkanization is prohibiting a clear definition and understanding of the role of the reading specialist at the high school level. The implications of the survey and case study data for students, teachers and schools are discussed, including suggestions for future research.

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