Many schools rely on paraprofessionals to give specialized support to teachers. But Rehobeth says trained and experienced aides are key to recent success. The school recently led peer mid- to high-poverty schools in reading scores, and in closing racial and socioeconomic gaps.

Now, as the school, like many around Alabama, wrestles with dips in achievement scores from the pandemic and considers the impact of a third-grade reading law, staff are doubling down on the presence of Title I aides. And they’re expanding that expertise in developing a team of trained reading educators as they work on afterschool tutoring and community support.

“If you don’t have a teacher that has a strong background in word work, or how to crack the code of reading, they’re not going to know how to target specific needs and then support the child in their classroom,” said Rachel Logan, a literacy specialist who consulted schools nationally on equitable practices. “They’ll farm them out and say, ‘Something’s wrong with this kid.’”

Virtual interventions and extra K-2 supports funded by federal relief money, experts say, can boost proficiency, but only if teachers like Matthews and his fellow support staff are also trained properly and have high-quality materials.

Most Alabama districts have some experience with Title I aides and paraprofessionals, but successful implementation of interventions can sometimes be a challenge.

Matthews’ instruction is just one part of Rehobeth’s team approach to teaching literacy.

The school uses three tiers of reading instruction: There’s Matthews’ core class, where students are getting the bulk of their reading lessons. From there, he might work with smaller groups of students on specific skills in the classroom, or literacy coaches will designate some students for outside tutoring — or both.

Read the full article about educator support training by Rebecca Griesbach at The Hechinger Report.