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Reading Specialist

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

Certificate (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.
  • Certificate (Certification Preparation):  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.  California University of Pennsylvania does not award certification.  Completers of this program will be awarded a certificate from California University of Pennsylvania.  This certificate does not relate to certification or licensure.  To earn certification, completers  of the program must apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education which grants certification.

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  Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP, formerly NCATE) and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education

Admissions Criteria

Minimum 3.00 GPA in a baccalaureate degree verified with official 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

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

Graduate School Application plus $25 nonrefundable application fee


Core Reading Courses  (21 credits required)

RSP 700 Foundations of Literacy: Theory and Instruction3
RSP 702 Literacy Assessment and Instruction3
RSP 703 Action Research I: Assessment3
RSP 704 Action Research II: Instruction3
RSP 705 Psychology of Reading3
RSP 706     Literacy Leadership3
RSP 734 Content Area Reading3

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

*EDU 650 Supporting English Language Learners3

Educational Research Courses (3 credits required)

RES 800 Methods of Research3
ESP 800 Seminar in Advanced Behavior Analysis3

Related Electives

ECE 703 Literacy Development3
EDE 701 Standards Aligned Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
ELE 701 Teaching and Assessment in Language Arts3
ELE 702 Teaching and Assessment in Reading3
EDE 713 Language Acquisition and Development
*ESP 610 Special Education Foundations and Collaboration3
*ESP 611 Assessment and Positive Behavior Interventions
ESP 701 Introduction to Behavior Analysis3
*ESP 612 Evidence-based Practices for Pre-K-8 Inclusion
ESP 613 Evidence-based Practices for Secondary Inclusion3
ESP 619 Evidence-based Practices for K-12 Inclusion
PSY 712 Advanced Psychology of Learning3
PSY 720 Neuropsychology of Learning Disorders3
RES 829 Research Project2

*Chapter 49: Two 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.

Application Questions

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

Program Coordinator

Diane Fine,  B.A., West Virginia Wesleyan College;  M. Ed. California University of Pennsylvanis; M.A. West Virginia University; Assistant Professor
Phone: 724-938-5892

Graduate Faculty

For faculty bios, visit:

Holly Diehl, Ed.D. (West Virginia University), M.A. (Frostburg State University), B.S. (West Virginia University), Associate Professor; specializes in Curriculum and Instruction
Diane Nettles, Ph.D., M.Ed., B.S. (University of South Florida), Professor; specializes in Curriculum and Instruction
Christine Peterson, Ed.D. (West Virginia University), M.S. (Johns Hopkins University), B.S. Elementary (Edinboro University), Associate Professor; specializes in Instructional Technology and English as a Second Language