A smiling female student drips a chemical into a vial.A smiling female student drips a chemical into a vial.

Reading Specialist

Master of Education – Credits:  35-36 (program code:  0150)

Certification Preparation – Credits:  27-33 (program code:  0910)

Program Description

Reading specialist candidates will learn and apply theory and research in literacy development and acquisition in preparation to fulfill the various roles of a reading specialist, which include teacher of struggling readers, mentor and coach to classroom teachers, and literacy leader in the community. The mission of the graduate reading specialist program is to encourage the development of reading specialists who serve schools and communities with integrity, civility and responsibility and who demonstrate superior knowledge and skill identified in the International Reading Association Standards for Reading Specialists.

The reading specialist program offers two options:

  • Master's degree: This plan is appropriate for students who wish to earn a Master of Education degree and reading specialist endorsement of their Pennsylvania teaching certificate. In this option, students are required to complete 35-36 credits of graduate coursework. To graduate from the program, candidates must successfully pass a reading specialist portfolio interview during their last semester of coursework. To have the reading specialist certification added to a Pennsylvania teaching certificate, candidates must pass the reading specialist portfolio interview and pass the Praxis II reading specialist Test. Candidates interested in certification outside Pennsylvania are required to secure and follow regulations from the other states or entities.
  • Certification only:  This plan is appropriate for students who are seeking reading specialist certification only. In this option, students are required to complete 27-33 graduate credits. The number required is dependent on the student’s background in special education. The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires all reading specialists to have 9 credits of special education and 3 credits of English as a second language. Therefore, if a student entering the reading specialist program does not have those courses in his/her undergraduate transcript, those credits must be earned in the reading specialist program.

Program Objectives

  • Reading specialist candidates will:
  • Identify theoretical and evidence-based foundations of reading and writing processes and will apply that theory and research to instructional planning and implementation.
  • Design and implement instructional approaches, materials to create an integrated, comprehensive, balanced curriculum to support student learning in reading and writing.
  • Use a variety of assessment tools and practices to plan and evaluate effective reading and writing instruction.
  • Create and engage their students in literacy practices that develop awareness, understanding, respect and a valuing of differences in our society.
  • Create a literate environment that fosters reading and writing by integrating foundational knowledge, use of instructional practices, approaches and methods, curriculum materials, and the appropriate use of assessments.
  • Pursue ongoing professional learning and leadership opportunities.


Delivery Mode

Predominately on-line delivery with a few courses delivered in the traditional, face-to-face format


The reading specialist program is accredited  by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Pennsylvania Department of Education

Admissions Criteria

Minimum 3.00 GPA in a baccalaureate verified with offical transcripts from an accredited institution

Copy of Pennsylvania teaching certificate before admission to the program.  If certificate is not yet received, submit a letter from your institution that verifies completion of all required Praxis exams

PA Act 24, 34, 114, and 151 clearances (or appropriate clearances for non-PA residents) may be submitted on admission, but up-to-date clearances must be submitted by the end of the first semester

Graduate Application for Admission plus $25 nonrefundable application fee


Core Reading Courses  (21 credits required)

RSP 700     Foundations of Literacy: Theory and Instruction 3 crs.
RSP 702     Literacy Assessment and Instruction 3 crs.
RSP 703     Action Research I:  Assessment 3 crs.
RSP 704     Action Research II:  Instruction 3 crs.
RSP 705     Psychology of Reading 3 crs.
RSP 706     Literacy Leadership 3 crs.
RSP 734     Content Area Reading 3 crs.

English Language Learner Courses  (3 credits required if not already completed)

*EDU 650 Supporting English Language Learners 3 crs.
*EDE 704 Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language 3 crs.
*EDE 709 Develop Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity 3 crs.

Educational Research Courses  (3 credits required)

RES 800 Methods of Research 3 crs.
ESP 800 Seminar in Advanced Behavior Analysis 3 crs.

Related Electives

ECE 703 Literacy Development  3 crs.
EDE 701 Development and Organization of Curriculum 3 crs.
ELE 701 Teaching and Assessment in Language Arts 3 crs.
ELE 702 Teaching and Assessment in Reading
3 crs.
EDE 713 Language Acquisition and Development 3 crs.
*ESP 610 Special Education Foundations and Collaboration 3 crs.
*ESP 611 Assessment and Positive Behavior Interventions 3 crs.
ESP 701 Introduction to Behavior Analysis 3 crs.
*ESP 612 Evidence-based Practices for Pre-K-8 Inclusion 3 crs.
ESP 613 Evidence-based Practices for Secondary Inclusion 3 crs.
ESP 619 Evidence-based Practices for K-12 Inclusion 3 crs.
PSY 712 Advanced Psychology of Learning 3 crs.
PSY 720 Neuropsychology of Learning Disorders 3 crs.
RES 829 Research Project 2 crs.

*Chapter 49-2 requirements mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Courses may be satisfied with previously taken undergraduate or graduate courses subject to approval of the program coordinator. 


Students in the reading specialist program receive academic and professional advisement from the program coordinator. Each student is assigned to an academic adviser from the time he/she is accepted into the program of study. Advisers work with students to discuss, monitor and provide advisement as it relates to their program of study.

Department Website


Application Questions

School of Graduate Studies and Research
California University of Pennsylvania
Eberly 202B
250 University Ave.
California, PA 15419


Program Coordinator

Catherine Hayden, M.Ed., B.S. (California University of Pennsylvania), Instructor
Email: hayden@calu.edu
Phone: 724-938-5892

Graduate Faculty

For faculty bios, visit:http://www.calu.edu/academics/faculty/index.htm.

Holly Diehl, Ed.D. (West Virginia University), Associate Professor; specializes in Curriculum and Instruction
Diane Nettles, Ph.D. (University of South Florida), Professor; specializes in Curriculum and Instruction
Christine Peterson, Ed.D. (West Virginia University), Associate Professor; specializes in Instructional Technology and English as a Second Language