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Central Washington University

CWU’s Online Degree Programs Target Vital Literacy Needs

January 11, 2013

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Nearly 32 million American adults, or 14 percent of the population, are illiterate; nearly 21 percent--almost a quarter of the adult population--read below a fifth grade level, according to a 2012 National Institute of Literacy study. Even more shocking, nearly one-fifth of the number of high school graduates--19 percent--leave school unable to read.

Central Washington University is working to improve these dire statistics by creating programs that make it easier for teachers to improve their skills in teaching reading.

“Literacy is the foundation of education,” said Sharryn Walker, professor, Language, Literacy, and Special Education. “And every K-12 teacher is a teacher of literacy, no matter what subject they teach. These online programs can really help teachers assess their students’ reading skills and provide extra help when needed.”

CWU’s Department of Language, Literacy, and Special Education has launched two online programs designed to help teachers attain advanced certification. One is a reading endorsement for K-12 teachers; the other is an online Master of Education in Literacy.

Designed for working teachers, the master’s degree can be completed in eight or nine quarters; the reading endorsement may be completed in five quarters. The courses are set up so that practicing teachers can complete the experiences in their own classrooms. The department is accepting applications now, and will continue to take applications through the end of May. Both cohorts will begin summer 2013.

“The online summer session is very intensive,” said Walker. “Students will earn eight credits in six weeks, which means a lot of reading, collaborating with classmates and professors on Blackboard, and regular written assignments.”

The reading endorsement option is open to all certified educators who teach through grade 12. The Master of Education—Literacy (formerly known as MEd—Reading Specialist) program is designed to allow candidates to pursue graduate-level study in the various levels of literacy through an online format. The successful candidate will be able to work as a Reading Specialist or Literacy Coach.

“The online program works for teachers of all grade levels, since they can tailor their coursework to what is happening in their classrooms,” said Walker. “These programs, in addition to helping students, enable teachers to further their career. Both the endorsement and the master’s degree give teachers a little more flexibility in their career, and can provide more opportunities for transfer and advancement.”

For more information, contact Sharryn Walker, 509-963-2133, or e-mail

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