After the Master’s Degree…Is a Doctorate a Good Idea?

By readingintheborderlands

Every year I have students in the Reading M.Ed. program ask me for advice about entering a literacy-related doctoral program.

 I loved my doctoral program. I would have stayed a graduate student forever if I could have figured out a way to do it without bankrupting myself. My doctoral program in the Department of Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona made me a better teacher, helped me answer questions about children and learning, forced me to think in new ways and about new  ideas, and in many, many ways changed who I am as a professional, as an educator, and as a person. That said, should you pursue a doctorate in literacy? Probably not.

 Before you decide to pursue a doctorate in literacy, consider the following questions:

  • What do you want to know about literacy? What are you passionate about? How will this doctorate help you explore this passion? If there isn’t some area related to the field of literacy that you are desperate to know more about, don’t do a doctorate. Good doctoral programs are immensely rewarding, but, unfortunately, also immensely frustrating. You have to be passionate about your subject because that is the only thing that will carry you through the bad times. And there will be bad times.
  • How much family/friend time are you willing to sacrifice? How many of your kid’s soccer games are you willing to miss? How many Friday nights are you willing to spend studying instead of going on a date night with your honey? A doctoral program requires time—anywhere from three to seven years of focused work, depending on your program.
  • What are your professional goals? How will a doctorate help you meet those goals? A doctoral degree is required for certain jobs (college professor, for example), but for other career paths a doctorate is not worth the required time and money. If you do want to be a professor, are there going to be jobs when you graduate?
  • How will you afford the program? Can you quit your job and be a full time student? Can you move to attend a good program? What sort of funding can you get for your doctoral program? How much are you willing to take on in student loans? You can do a doctoral program part time—though I don’t recommend it—and you can do a long distance doctoral program—though I REALLY don’t recommend that. The best way to do a doctoral program is to be a full time student. This is because the learning that takes place in a doctoral program doesn’t only occur in classes—it is working on your advisor’s research project and attending as many brown bag lunches as possible where people share their research and forming a study group with your classmates and being a teaching assistant and going to the lecture series and….
  • How do you handle frustration? Can you handle criticism? If you fall apart when someone tells you your ideas are wrong, a doctoral program is not for you. Academics are REALLY GOOD at being critical. This is usually a positive thing because it leads to stronger research and thinking. Grow a thick skin.
  • Are you a strong academic reader and writer? Can you handle a reading load of six books (or more) per course each semester? Can you write ten four-page critiques and one 20 page final paper (or more) per class each semester? Am I exaggerating the work load for effect? No, not really. Of course, some classes will require less reading and writing than this—but some will require more. And, frankly, if the majority of your classes don’t require major amounts of reading and writing then you are not in a good doctoral program.

Should you get a doctorate? For me, the choice was absolutely worth it. But make the decision very carefully.

Tangible Benefits of Graduate Education in Reading

By readingintheborderlands

Previously I talked about why graduate education in reading is a good idea for anyone interested in literacy learning and teaching.  That post mostly focused on teacher knowledge and expertise. But in times of economic distress, greater amounts of knowledge can seem like an expensive luxury. So what are some of the tangible rewards you can expect from the graduate reading program at UTPA?

There are two tracks in the graduate reading program at UTPA. The shortest is the Master Reading Teacher (MRT) certification program. This is a six course (18 hour) sequence. Once the student successfully completes the coursework, they take the state MRT exam. If passed, they are eligible for certification as a Master Reading Teacher. The second (and longer) track is the Reading Specialist M.Ed. program. This is a 12 course (36 hour) program that leads toward a Master’s degree. Once program requirements are completed, the student can choose to take the state Reading Specialist TExES exam. If passed, they become both certified Reading Specialists and certified MRTs.

 Tangible benefits of this degree and both certifications can include:

  • Becoming a teacher leader through serving as grade level chair (often for an additional stipend) or developing literacy curriculum for your grade level.
  • Moving into new positions; program completers can be hired as a reading specialist or literacy coach. Some districts will also hire program completers for central office positions related to literacy.
  • Increased marketability when job searching in new districts across the state.
  • For the MRT program only: Filling the MRT position at many Texas schools; if chosen for this slot, the MRT takes on some extra responsibility and receives a generous stipend.
  • For the M.Ed. program only: Many districts pay an extra stipend to employees who earn a master’s degree.

Of course, there are no guarantees that completing the graduate reading program will lead to any of these things, but there’s no question that it opens up possibilities and opportunities.

Why Pursue Graduate Education in Reading?

By readingintheborderlands

In these times of job uncertainty and economic difficulty, why would anyone spend time and money on graduate education?  And why graduate education in reading, of all things?

 Readingis essential to every subject; if students don’t know how to read well, they will likely struggle in social studies, science, and even math classes. Undergraduate teacher preparation programs usually only have two or three reading courses; for middle and high school teachers there is often only one required reading course. This means that while new teachers know some reading theory, they often have very little practical knowledge of how to teach reading to real children in real classrooms.  While these teachers care deeply about helping their students become better readers, they often don’t know what to do other than follow the designated curriculum—even when they can see that the curriculum isn’t working.

 All children can be good readers. However, children, whether in kindergarten or in high school, need expert teachers in order to reach their full potential. Teachers, on the other hand, need in depth theoretical and practical knowledge in order to make good professional decisions.  A good master’s degree program can help teachers develop that expertise. Through the Reading M.Ed. or MRT program at UTPA you can explore current theory and research, connect with other literacy educators to share ideas, and gain self-confidence backed up by a solid knowledge base to aid in your continued work with students.

More on this in a few days.

National Middle School Association

There are many professional organizations that can help literacy experts stay involved in the profession beyond their classroom or school assignment. Students in the spring semester of READ 6325 explored various professional organizations and are sharing what they learned through this blog series. 

By Rosie

The acronym NMSA stands for National Middle School Association. This organization is in the process or changing its name to Association for Middle Level Education, and the website is Professionals interested in joining this organization may choose to call 1-800-528-NMSA or 614-895-4730, e-mail at or fill out an application and print it to be mailed or faxed to:

NMSA Headquarters                                      Fax: 614-895-4750           
 4151 Executive Parkway, Suite 300
 Westerville, OH 43081

The organization has three different types of memberships, individual, institutional and Specialty memberships. Individual memberships have three categories: E-membership costs U.S $60.00 and is the same price for international membership. Professional membership costs U.S. $75.00 and international membership is $90.00. Premier membership is U.S. $110.00 and International membership is $125.00. The professional and premier members receive Middle School Journal and Middle Ground Magazine in print. E-membership receives the same journal and magazine but online. The three types of memberships have access to, Middle E-Connections, Research in Middle Level Education Online, The Family Connection, discount prices on NMSA publications, conferences, webinars, and other resources. Premier members receive also three books per year and a voucher for $100 for professional development.

Institutional memberships are more expensive. Fill out the application and there are the same three choices, e-membership, professional, and premier. E-membership, in the U.S. and international, has the cost of $220, receiving Middle School Journal and Middle Ground Magazine online. Institutional Professional membership costs $280 in U.S. and international $355. Institutional professional membership receives 5 copies of the Middle School Journal and Middle Ground Magazine. Premier membership costs $600 and international $750. This membership receives 10 copies of Middle School Journal and Middle Ground Magazine. Other benefits include access to, Middle E-Connections, Research in Middle Level Education Online, The Family Connection, discount prices on NMSA publications, conferences, webinars, and other resources. Only Institutional membership Premier receives from the Book Club three books per year and $100 voucher for professional development.

Specialty membership is for college students, parents, and retired teachers. The cost for this membership is the same for U.S. and international, $40. Their benefits are the same as the e-members. However, there is one difference; NMSA has collaborated with other organizations to have dual professional membership at discounted prices which vary according to the state. Website questions should be addressed to .

The focus of NMSA is students between the ages of 10-15 years old. This organization is committed to improve educational experiences for these teenagers. NMSA has three goals: support the education and well-being of teenagers, support middle school teachers by providing professional development, provide resources, and services that increase the efficiency of the middle school teachers, and solidify NMSA’s growth and leadership. 

Publications: NMSA has published many books but there are two new books: Teaming Rocks and Four Square and the Politics of Six Grade Lunch. This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents is the landmark position paper.

NMSA 38th Annual conference and Exhibit      Dates: Nov. 10-12, 2011     Place: Kentucky International Convention Center City and State: Louisville, Kentucky           Some Speakers: Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education; Henry Winkler, actor, author, and child advocate; Rick Wormeli, Mastery and How to Assess It; Charles Beamar, Classroom Management.

Individual NMSA Member $249 before Oct. 14, 2011 $349 after October 14, 2011
Individual Non-members $329 before Oct. 14, 2011 $429 after October 14, 2011
Teams 5 or more NMSA members $209 before Oct. 14, 2011 $284 after October 14, 2011
Groups of 20 or more NMSA Members $189 N/A
Groups of 100 or more NMSA members $159.00 N?A

Go to the website to see other prices.

Future Conferences:

Conference Dates City and State
NMSA 2012 Nov. 8-10, 2012 Portland, Oregon
NMSA 2013 Nov. 7-9, 2013 Nashville, Tennessee
NMSA 2014 Nov. 6-8, 2014 Nashville, Tennessee
NMSA 2015 Nov. 5-7, 2015 St. Louis, Missouri


Council of Exceptional Children

There are many professional organizations that can help literacy experts stay involved in the profession beyond their classroom or school assignment. Students in the spring semester of READ 6325 explored various professional organizations and are sharing what they learned through this blog series. 

Mary Guerra 

The Council of Exceptional Children, also known as CEC, is a professional organization that helps children with disabilities, gifts, and/or talents to be successful in their education.  This organization advocates for students, provides professional training and educational material to professionals to teach these students.  This organization is mainly for teachers, administrators, students, parents, paraprofessionals, and related support service providers.  The Council of Exception Children publishes journals and newsletters on information about new research, classroom practices, federal legislation and policies.  This professional organization provides conferences and trainings for professionals that work with children with disabilities, and/or gifts, and talents.

The Council of Exceptional Children has a chapter and divisions in every state.  You can join this organization and/or your local division through the website or 1-888-232-7733.  There is a fee to be part of this organization, each state has a different fee and it also depends if you are a student, professional, retired, or you want the premier access to the organization and website.  If you live inTexas, the dues for a professional are $124 or $202 for a premium account.  Once you sign up to become a member you can also pick additional benefits to your account or keep it basic.  With the membership, you have minute to minute updates on new findings, conferences, journals, and benefits CEC provides through sponsors and partnerships.

On the website it also has an online store where you can buy books about strategies for teaching exceptional children, lesson plans, etc.  Some prices on merchandise may vary if you are a member or non-member.  Interesting information found in this website, is the awards and scholarships they give out to children with disabilities, and/or gifts, talents, and awards given to special education professionals. With each scholarship and award an online nomination form and/or application need to be filled out.  They even provide tips for filling out the nomination or application form.  Along the same area, you will find sponsors and donors of CEC organization.  There are a number of individuals that donate to this professional organization and you can find their names on the website under CEC Sponsors & Donors.  There is also a link to where anyone can donate.  When donating you can specify which award and/or scholarship you would like the money to go to.  Any amount donated is accepted.  There are also jobs available in CEC.  The job openings are posted along with the description of the job and qualifications.

The Council of Exceptional Children provides a lot of professional development and/or conferences for educators and parents who want to know more about ways to help exceptional children.  CEC provides webinars which can benefit many individuals who have a busy schedule and an internet interaction or seminar would be rather easier for them.

This website is full of information and is updated everyday.  It is full of information on how to help students with disabilities, and/or gifts, talents, scholarship, awards, conferences, journals, etc.  You need to have time to browse this page to be able to see all the information provided.  The website is user friendly and it has a video in most pages.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

There are many professional organizations that can help literacy experts stay involved in the profession beyond their classroom or school assignment. Students in the spring semester of READ 6325 explored various professional organizations and are sharing what they learned through this blog series. 

By Laura A. Garcia

The National Association for the Education of Young Children or NAEYC is a professional organization that promotes excellence in early childhood education by focusing on the quality of educational and developmental services for all children (birth through age 8).  It is the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education teachers, experts, and advocates in center-based and family day care. For over 80 years, the NAEYC has been publishing a professional journal and books, been actively involved in public policy work, and recently has broadened its work to include national conferences. The association is also well known for accrediting high-quality child care/preschool centers.  It is reported that more than 10,000 centers, programs, and schools have earned NAEYC accreditation.

The NAEYC began in the 1920s, when Patty Smith Hill’s concern over the quality of emerging nursery school programs in the United States triggered her to bring together well-known experts in the field to decide how to best ensure the existence of high quality programs. The group met in Washington, DC, and collaborated to create a manual, “Minimum Essentials for Nursery Education”, which set standards and methods of acceptable nursery schools. Three years later, the group formalized the existence of a professional association of nursery school experts named the National Association for Nursery Education (NANE) which later in 1964, changed its name to NAEYC. 

NAEYC’s mission is based on three major goals:

  • bettering well-qualified practitioners and improving the conditions these professionals work in
  •  improving early childhood education by working to deliver a high-quality system of supporting early childhood programs
  • encouraging excellence in childhood education for all children by constructing an extraordinary, all-around organization of groups and individuals who are committed to promoting excellence in early childhood education for all young children.

The NAEYC publishes Young Children, Teaching Young Children, and sponsors Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 

Young Children is a peer reviewed journal published bi-monthly which focuses on current topics in the field of early childhood. 

Teaching the Children is a magazine specifically designed for preschool teachers.  It is published five times a year and offers teachers practical ideas that can be used in the classroom.  The articles included are research-based and discuss best practices in early childhood education which reinforce the accreditation criteria for the NAEYC. 

Early Childhood Research Quarterly is a scholarly journal sponsored by NAEYC.  Published four times a year, ECRQ contains research on early childhood, early childhood development, theory, and educational practice.    

The NAEYC has an annual conference and expo in which early childhood educators, administrators, and researchers come together to discuss the latest practices.  It is the largest early childhood conference in the world, and this year will be held in Orlando, Florida on November 2-5.  NAEYC also hosts the National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, a smaller gathering focused on preparing and mentoring early childhood professionals.  The 2011 Institute will be held in Providence, Rhode Island on June 12-15.

Anyone interested in joining the NAEYC should log on to .  As a member, you will receive:

  • 20% discount on hundreds of books, videos, brochures, and posters
  • six electronic issues of Young Children
  • reduced registration fees at NAEYC sponsored conferences and seminars
  • access to the Members Only area of the website

Members joining the NAEYC need to specify their community affiliate group, which allows full benefits of membership in local, state, and regional early childhood organizations.  Dues vary by state and community.  In our area (South Texas) dues are $135 for the Comprehensive Membership, $100 for Regular Membership, and $90 for a Student Membership.  Currently, the NAEYC has over 90,000 members.            

In addition to its publications, conferences and videos, the NAEYC offers a program called “Supporting Teachers, Strengthening Families” that is geared towards preventing child abuse and promotes healthy social and emotional development in young children.  This program teaches educators how to better communicate with the families of their students.  Another important program sponsored by the NAEYC is the Week of the Young Child”.  This is a week- long promotion held every spring that creates public awareness on the importance of early childhood development and education.