Episode 46 - LEAD on READ: Reaching more Readers, Training more Teachers with Katie Pace Miles, PhD
Katie Pace Miles, PhD, completed her doctorate in educational psychology: learning, development, and instruction with a sub-specialization in rResearch on the acquisition of literacy with Dr. Linnea C. Ehri. In her tenure-track faculty line at Brooklyn College, Dr. Miles oversees the graduate and undergraduate development and teaching of literacy courses in the early childhood department. As a former early childhood/childhood teacher and learning specialist, she conducted reading and writing assessments of and interventions with students with literacy delays and disabilities. Dr. Miles worked closely with teachers, families, and school psychologists to support student progress.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: [00:00:00] Welcome to all of our READers to LEAD on READ. I'm Danielle Scorrano, the host of the READ Podcast, and I'm here with my co-host Jamie Williamson, the Executive Director of The Windward Institute, Head of School at The Windward School, and Dr. Katie Pace, Miles. Hello!
Jamie Williamson: Hello, hello. Good morning.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Nice to see you both.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Thank you. It’s nice to see you as well. Jamie. How are you approaching this conversation? How are you today, before we really introduced Dr. Miles.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. Well, it was a beautiful weekend. I got to spend some time out on the bike, kind of clearing the head a little bit. It's a gorgeous day today, after what was a terrible weather week last week. So I'm just really happy to be here, and really happy to see you actually finally meet you in person. We were just chatting earlier about the fact we've been on a ton of zooms together but have never actually been in the same room. So this is a nice little treat. So I'm just really excited to have the conversation today. Thanks so much for being here.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: It’s an absolute pleasure. I'm so happy to be here.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: How are you doing? Before I introduce all of your amazing accolades, I'd like to know how you're doing this morning.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I'm good. I got [00:01:00] my kiddos off to school. I'm right after this. I'm heading to San Francisco for two talks that I'm going to give. And so I'm feeling energized and grateful that people are interested in the work. That's great.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Great. For our READers out there, actually, so those that are watching this won't get your full bio. Those that are listening will get the full formal bio, but I wanted to read a few pieces of who you are and how you're coming to this conversation. So you’re associate professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY, the co-founder and PI of CUNY Reading Corps, which we're so excited to talk about, which. pairs pre-service teacher training and provides free high dosage tutoring for those in historically underserved communities. You’re a literacy researcher. We spoke on episode 37 about your work on orthographic mapping and early literacy, and actually, I don't think you know this, it's our most popular episode.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Oh, I don't! I love it!
Jamie Williamson: Local celebrity.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Oh yeah. You are the advisor of Reading [00:02:00] Rescue and then you also created the Reading Ready program, which is explicit and systematic word reading for kindergartens and first grade. So all these amazing things. We're so excited to have you, but we're really want to focus more on your leadership story. So as you think about your career and your work as a leader, what called you to lead and can you tell us more about that? Sure.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Sure, It it had everything to do with the exacerbated inequities during the pandemic. That's really where I think I found the moment where I saw a grave need. I live in Brooklyn, and it was all around me. I have two young children in Brooklyn. And I would be on Zoom calls. I'm a professor, as you just mentioned, so I'd be on Zoom calls with all of my CUNY students. They have children around Brooklyn. They’re teaching around the borough. And I, I knew about the inequities because I would be in and out of schools prior to the pandemic. Once it hit, I would hear about all of the [00:03:00] exacerbated pieces and elements, and it wasn't getting any better. My students would tell me about the lack of services, their own children, nieces and nephews were receiving. And they would tell me about, as a teacher, how they felt so ill-equipped to provide the amount of interventions their early readers needed. It was really birthed out of that, and I had a network that I could leverage, and so I did in that moment.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Wow, I'm curious, as you think back to the pandemic in the last few years, there's been so much that our leaders have reflected on. I mean, Jamie and I have spoken at length about some of the things that he's reflected on as a leader, and so I'm curious, what does it mean to be a leader for you right now?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I appreciate how you contextualize that in the, right now. , I really think it has to do for me right now around empathy. When I started [00:04:00] CUNY Reading Corps, it had a lot to do with empathy. I set ambitious goals. I tried to do something to support the community. And really at every step along the journey, I was humbled by how much empathy I needed to bring to the table, for the tutors, who we were asking to do this work at a really difficult time in their lives, for the children who were really struggling, not just academically, but social-emotionally, for the teachers in the schools that we were reaching out to. We never could claim that like, oh, we're here to solve all the problems. We weren't. We do a small, we provide a service. They're really the ones in there all day, every day. They were battling the pandemic with these kiddos. So we all just need empathy for each other. Those of us on the CUNY Reading Corps team we needed to have a lot of grace with each other to get this off the ground.
Jamie Williamson: Thank you. I want to sort of touch on a few things. You had, this idea of empathy. Schools are microcosms of a greater society. Right no, we're having [00:05:00] those debates about debt ceiling and all this stuff happening. I think we need to raise the empathy ceiling because II completely agree with you about the work that's happening right now and the stress of the last few years as been absolutely incredible. And I think educators, medical professionals have been really put upon, and I think we do have to cover the table with a lot of grace for each other, a lot of empathy, a lot of compassion. We need to try to kind of make sure we're trying to understand someone's perspective and maybe even a little more curiosity than we normally sort of show up with in a given conversation.
But I love this idea of aligning passion and purpose. And one of the things that if you ever happen to be around for our middle school graduation, you're welcome to join and you're always invited.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I would love that. I would appreciate that.
Jamie Williamson: But I do a little graduation speech for our eighth graders heading off. I talk about this idea of purpose sometimes in passion, and I think so often in this “me-centric” society that we have sort of somehow evolved into, it's all about sort of this internal reflective, me, me, me. I [00:06:00] think we forget sometimes that actually passion is not an internal sort of exploration. I'm a big believer in this concept, but I think passion is actually an external expression. You're looking at the world, you're seeing need in the world.
And then you have this kind of compulsion almost to fill that need. And I think about the work that you've been doing here and recognizing the incredible inequities that exist across a spectrum in education, in New York City, is really to say that it's one of the deepest and most Illustrative spaces of the concept is, would be a wild understatement. The inequities in the city are absolutely stunning, stunning, stunning. But it exists across the country. Mm-hmm. Even in Ohio where I was, you see these wealthy suburbs and these inner city schools, the amount of resources available to them and it was wildly different. So tell us a little bit about how you work to align this sense of purpose [00:07:00] and passion and finding this space and the work that you're doing currently.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Well, I appreciate this passion piece too. When I talk about literacy I'm just really lucky I wound up in the career that I wound up in. And I don't mean to take us back to like the start, but I was going to go into a different field. And I found my way into education, and it was really because it just brought out such joy in me every time I was able to do it. And I wanted to learn more and keep going. And during the pandemic, I think lost, or at least I did, I lost this sense of joy.
I'm an academic and so you're supposed to be doing a lot of research. I was pre-tenure even before in the midst of the pandemic too. I should have been totally focused on my own research publications so that they saying publish or perish. And I just couldn't do it anymore. I was like, no, actually wait a second, I’m looking at all of [00:08:00] this need. I know that this is just the scratching of the surface of the amount of need out there. And why don't I just go and go for reach instead of research? And so one of the things that I really needed to pause on in this, me, me, me society, was it would've benefited me academically if I would've started off with a research project. And instead, I started off with just trying to meet the needs of university students and children, and I totally put that aside. And I found so much passion. I felt like I found my passion, my joy. The whole and every reason I went into education came back to me in the midst of this really awful time. So that has really been just the driving force to continue. It started as a covid response initiative I did not plan to continue. And it's scaled tremendously. I think it has because it's not just about me. [00:09:00] Everyone who's come to work with at CUNY Reading Corps, I think has found the same purpose, joy, whatever it is in the work.
Jamie Williamson: Can, can I ask one follow up question. There's a nugget in here that I'm dying to know more about. So first, you talked about this not being your kind of initial career sort of thought.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Yes.
Jamie Williamson: So what did you want to do before you went into educational psychology and the reading work you're doing?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I was going to be a lawyer.
Jamie Williamson: Wow, that outstanding. I love how people find their space. I was a psychology major in undergraduate career, I wanted to be a researcher. I wanted to go to graduate school and work in a cognitive laboratory. I looked at older adults, and looked at visual discrimination in older adults, and specifically in a lot of older adults who were low functioning in executive functioning kind of components. And I was like, I want to do research. So I went to work for the FDA and on a study at the Veteran's Hospital looking at crack cocaine addiction. It was a medication trial for the FDA. I got there and I [00:10:00] loved working with the patients. But I wasn’t sure wanted to be there. I was collecting study measures. I was doing lit review work. I loved that side of it. And I'm like, I saw the PI of the study who never left her office. It was really like from seven to seven at night, you know, eat salad at her desk. And I was like, that's not the life I want to lead here. Yeah. And then I found myself in a school and angry about services kids were getting. And it sort of, kind of kept developing from there. There are so few linear paths in this world. It's often a nice little zigzag opportunity and openness and kind of further deepening that kind of passion and exploration, so thank you for that.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Of course, I want to echo that too. I think since I started the READ podcast and I actually started READ when I was teaching. I think we had talked about that in our last episode, and I had started it when I was starting my doctorate program. Mm-hmm. I just [00:11:00] finished actually, so I'm graduating in a few weeks.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Congratulations.
Jamie Williamson: Big round applause. Wonderful.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Thank you, and one of the things that was so inspiring to me is I read this one paper actually, Battilana, Leca, & Boxenbaum, 2009. They talk about this idea of institutional entrepreneurship in education. And one of the things that I connected to that was more about this idea of social entrepreneurship in education and what that looks like. Because you know, what I hear you both saying is that in education sometimes, and especially in higher ed, you hear of people doing the traditional research path. I don't know if of our READers have noticed or you two have seen, but I start to gravitate to those researchers and leaders that are pushing the envelope and are building into this social entrepreneurship and disrupting this status quo, the educational status quo. And that's what Battilana et al., 2009 said, was focusing on disrupting the educational status quo.
And [00:12:00] when we spoke on episode 39 about the CUNY Reading Corps, you said that you wanted to disrupt the preexisting notion about university field work. And so I know you've talked a little bit about how it started but talk to us a little bit more about why the tutoring and specifically in your work as a researcher and then trying to maximize impact, why high dosage tutoring? Can you walk us through that more?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Sure. Oh, so the field work piece, I'll start there. The field work piece is critical because as anyone who's been trained as a teacher knows will remember that at some point in multiple courses that you were taking, you had to go into a school and do something. That's called your field work. It is affiliated with a course. It may have been that you were observing a student, it may have been that you were doing a read aloud or something like that, but that time is precious. There's only so many courses that have the accompanying field work, and in early literacy we only have one course where [00:13:00] university students are trained in how to teach a child how to read. So the 30 hours of field work that are affiliated with the courses I teach or oversee in the early childhood department at Brooklyn College are critical. If you could imagine, you only get 15 weeks, and one of those weeks has to be going over over the syllabus and one of those weeks is going to be the final project. So you're down to 13 weeks on how to teach a child how to read from pre-K to second grade and only about three hours a week. So that field work has to be maximized.
Prior to the pandemic, I tried all different sorts of things. And it was in the pandemic when I just said, okay, I've been researching tutoring and high dosage tutoring. High dosage, meaning that it's three to five days a week, and it's the same tutor with the same child. And they're using some kind of high-quality evidence-based program. And I've been researching this. I know that it works. Why [00:14:00] shouldn't this be what we give the children from communities that need it the most? I also know that this is what children from families who have means, this is what they get. They oftentimes will get a minimum of two sessions, if not an additional like Zoom session or something like that. Or they have a parent who can step in and provide that additional support. And so it's happening all around us and I don't disparage it wherever it's occurring. It's what kids need. And it doesn't matter if you're a child from this family or that family, we just have to make sure all children can get it.
And so that's really what I wanted. I wanted to disrupt the field work and say, you know what? We're going to all come together. I'm going to train you, you're going to actually provide this service, but it's not just about the child. It's also about you as the pre-service teacher feeling like you can make a difference like this, that you're well-equipped to do explicit, systematic, multimodal instruction, not just talk about it in class. Anyone could talk about it in class.
Jamie Williamson: It's a [00:15:00] whole other thing to execute a program and then execute it over 20 sessions with fidelity and integrity.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Yes. And look at the data.
Jamie Williamson: Outstanding. I love this. As a school psychologist, I spent years, you know, working in schools, evaluating kids, trying to kind of push into some of the public schools that I worked at, bringing this idea of data, looking at some programmatic pieces. And I worked at a middle school, and you see, I would have kids come in in sixth grade, on third grade reading level, three years later. Third grade reading level. And having now interviewed teachers for the better part of 15-16 years in my sort of leadership journey, I have always been so surprised at how little actual work teachers get in pre-service stuff. So I want to come back to that because I'm so excited about what you're doing.
I also love the idea of building on some other ideas and like try to find ways to kind of connect things. But so when you look at this, [00:16:00] at the CUNY reading Corps here, I'm thinking like Peace Corps model, right? You drop in, you do something really intense for the good of the world, right? I feel like that's what you're doing. This idea of training these 900 tutors in, you've been able to reach 2300 early readers in the DOE process now, which is absolutely incredible. So I just thank you, and want to just acknowledge that and just say like, I think that's just really such an accomplishment here. Thank you. So when you think about this idea of being the disruptor reinventing the practicum model there or the classroom or the field placement model there. Talk to me about how you gained support because I would imagine at the university level things are done a certain way. There's tradition, which is great. But also tradition can be one of the things that stands in our way to actually do the work that needs to be done and for the moment. So how did you build some support within CUNY for that sort of approach?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I have a tremendously [00:17:00] supportive chair of my department, and as an academic, that makes a big difference. The chair of my department is Dr. Jacqueline Shannon. She has done a lot of early interventions work around New York City and underserved communities. So while she's not a literacy person, she understands and our work is parallel in that way. She understands the need for service and the translation of research into practice. I had immediate support from her. Another chair of a department could have said, no, Katie, you need to focus just on publishing, and you need to work on course development, or service to the college or something like that.
She really saw that this was my service to the college. That this was my course development and that eventually this would generate research, which is where we are now, three years later with CUNY Reading Corps. And so that was key. And then she helped advocate for me with the Dean of the School of Education, who then helped advocate for me with the University Dean of Education, University Dean, Ashleigh Thompson. That there was a critical point. I started [00:18:00] this in the Fall of 2020 in the depths of the pandemic. And by the spring of 2021, the wonderful people at CUNY that I had just mentioned really saw the potential of this and they saw it growing. And I think they maybe saw me working tirelessly on this. And they said, we should really give some services and support to this and started to see the vision as well and wanted to share in it. And University Dean Thompson took the initiative into her office, which has been such a gift. It has been incredible. There's 25 CUNY campuses, and I'm one. I'm at Brooklyn College. That's where this started.
When we moved this into the CUNY Central at University Dean Thompson's office, she was able to hire Dr. Erin Croke, who could oversee the operations. We might talk about HR and things like that. I'm a content specialist and a researcher. I really needed support on implementation and all of those different types of things. That level of [00:19:00] support really allowed this to scale.
And I was bringing on grad students of mine who had been in the course in fall of 2020 or spring of 2021, and I was promoting them into what we may talk about later, a lead instructor role or a program manager. I was just trying to build this from the bottom up. We really needed someone who had expertise at an operations level. It just grew so quickly. All of that support was because the university saw the potential. They saw that this was transformative for the system and it was because when it moved to Central, we could recruit pre-service teachers, not just from Brooklyn College. We could recruit from all campuses. And now we have CUNY Reading Corps tutors from 18 different campuses. We have three other campuses who are now embedding this in their coursework.
So it's, it's one thing where [00:20:00] you embed it in your coursework and we need more professors around CUNY who want to do this as part of their fieldwork. And then we also hire pre-service teachers. Those are two different tracks, where as a tutor you could wind up in CUNY Reading Corps.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: As you're talking, one of my other interests is thinking about scalability, sustainability, implementation and de-implementation, and there's so many things that I think I'm hearing from you, and I'm connecting to. When you said, you recruit from the Central Office, I'm thinking, oh, that might have helped with cost and grants. When recruiting someone with expertise in operations, oh, that helped with human resources and human capacity. From your perspective and your vision, I know you talked about hiring expert tutors and instructors and things like that. What were those mechanisms? Tell us maybe a little bit more explicitly about the mechanisms to achieving the scalability and ensuring the sustainability of this program.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: The mechanism. So I think [00:21:00] it started first with being able to demonstrate that we could do this with quality and fidelity within a contained situation at CUNY which we call it the embedded course model. That just means it's part of your classes. I think that establishing that first and not trying to do two things at once. I could have come into this and said, I’m going to get grant money and hire tutor tutors instead. I said, let me try and get grant money so that I can just do this within my courses where I do have a lot of academic oversight. Starting there was key because I was able to leverage a critical player in all of this as my close colleague, Andrew Fletcher at the Department of Education. He was one of my first phone calls when I was applying for the grants. I said, if I was to receive this grant money to train all of the students that I teach overseeing these courses, I'll get them ready to go. I'll oversee them. Could you help us get into the [00:22:00] schools?
You have to remember everything was shut down. Mm-hmm. We couldn't go anywhere. We had to zoom in. We zoomed into households. That was so intimate. And so I needed someone like Andrew to help with all of that and all of the legal pieces of this on the Department of Ed side. I was trying to deal with it on the CUNY side, and once we had a proof of concept, that's what we were able to bring to like CUNY Central and whatnot and to say, look, you can actually do this. To all of our great surprise, not only can you do it, it works. We had evidence that the students were improving.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: How do you maintain that coherence though? So you are spreading it to other CUNY schools. As someone from the outside, I would assume that every CUNY instructor doing this fully endorses and has experienced instructor literacy programs? So that's my question is how do you ensure coherence with that program? Is it something that you're working on? Is it something that you've learned or you've had to [00:23:00] navigate?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Yes, I've worked on it a lot. And, great point that you just made the assumption that everyone has had some sort of, some sort of structured literacy coursework. And they haven't.. So I think one of the things that gets me so excited about this is knowing that, our goal this year is, is 800 CUNY pre-service teachers and an additional, set of DOE staff members who are going to be trained. That's how we get to the 900. It's my way of maybe getting in the back door a little bit and saying like, maybe you haven't had coursework on this, but CUNY Reading Corps could provide you with it. One program has six hours of high-quality asynchronous training and the other program has 12 hours. I've been able to develop the programs either myself or over time with colleagues. We know what's in those PDs. We ask questions about structured literacy, and afterwards we have all of the tutors [00:24:00] practice before we even launch them into a pairing. And that's all the CUNY reading course expertise. They're amazing at doing this. And that's how we know at a minimum, we've reached this many individuals, who next year and the year to come are going to go off into the DOE and they will have had this training. And I'd like to think of it a little bit as like an inoculation. They got their shot and maybe they're not going to be succumbed to some other types of literacy practices that we know don't work.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Don't you just want to go in the streets of Manhattan and just like shout? I do. I’m just so excited.
Jamie Williamson: I'm thinking about so many things, and I have so many questions right now. One is, I'm thinking about this kind of uphill push that you started, which was really against your own sort of economic incentive, right? I mean, I just, I want to kind of call out the university incentive on the idea of like, it's all about publishing. And you know, and sometimes we've talked to a number of [00:25:00] researchers that we try to partner with this idea of translational science, and no one wants to fund translational science work. They're all about funding based science or a really interesting research component. But when it comes to bringing that in, there's really not a lot of incentives to help bridge that gap. And I think within the university, if it's all about publish or perish, then the incentive to pursue a non-published track here. It is pretty daunting. So I just want to applaud you for the courage there. I appreciate that. Mm-hmm. And I think we need more folks in academia who are sort of seeing that purpose and push in that direction because I think we have to change the the incentive model at the university level.
And I think about even for us and school districts and teacher training, I think we have to have a massive rethinking of all how all these things come together and how all the pieces fit together. So absolutely, I think your model actually has a lot of utility in that conversation, if I could be really honest about that.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Thank you.
Jamie Williamson: I think it's just really important. [00:26:00] We have a teacher training program here that we do. So I've, again, we've been and I've been interviewing teachers for a long time. I have yet to meet someone who walks in our door ready to teach in a program like this because we have to do so much unlearning. We have to unlearn all the programs that they give and they've had out there or, the bad information that folks get about what's right and what the research says or, well, I read this article and they have no idea where the article came from. Right? T
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Totally. Yes.
Jamie Williamson: It was someone's opinion at a party that they were chatting with. But how do we move the whole system in some way that allows us to start to shift the conversation away from this kind of almost really myopic sense of how we train teachers in just the theoretical side of this, to bring in more application side and allow that bridge to get a little bit stronger from that research to that translational kind of component to there? Any thoughts about how others who were in your position working and in a pre-service teacher training program might be able to kind of push back against that system a little bit?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I would just thank you for really pulling [00:27:00] this part out. I really want to encourage any academic to consider what their translational piece is and how they can really give that gift to their university students. My university students have been so emphatically appreciative of this opportunity, Even in the really difficult times of doing this, at the end of the semester, they would say, I can't believe we did that. That was awesome. That was just unbelievable that you gave us that experience and so I hope that maybe in this, some other academics, I'll also call out that, as academics who are doing this type of work, it's really on us to do as much dissemination about it. I know that there's a lot of other academics who are trying different formats of this in other subject areas. And I think through dissemination you get more buy-in. And so with my work through the Benedict Silverman Foundation, CUNY Reading Corps [00:28:00] has been replicated. And I believe it's in now 15 universities across the country.. And there are like three to five more universities that are considering coming on board and doing some aspect of CUNY reading Corps. Even if they're just going to do one of the programs, even if it's a professor that has one course, 20 students, I'm so excited when that person reaches out after I give a talk or something. You know, she'll say, I've always wanted to do this with my students, but I couldn't get a grant. And we'll say, do it. Here's a program. Go for it. And then I think that's how we change the university system is incrementally, we get more and more professors being insubordinate in a way and saying like, no, I'm not going do that. They are disrupters.
Jamie Williamson: It was John Lewis when he said kind of the good trouble, right?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Yes, good trouble. Very, very good trouble. Yes. I like that. I like that a lot. Yes. And then the university system will come around too, because when grant money starts coming in to fund these things, I just want call it out. We've had incredible funders [00:29:00] who did come. They saw the vision. They came with generosity of spirit, and they didn't know me from anyone. And they just had trust and they said, okay, let's, let's go for it. The universities also need and want that grant money. I'm not criticizing it. I'm saying it’s also the way the system works. And so that really helps universities, when grant money and relationships with funders are strengthened through these types of partnerships.
Jamie Williamson: Again, we run a school here. We recruit about 35 to 45 teachers a year to go through our training program and kind of build up our teacher base here. I've talked to a lot of colleagues around the country who run schools and finding teachers these days is getting harder. It seems to be getting harder. So I'm hoping you have a ray of sunshine for us from the university side of this. Because are we getting at the university level, people who are interested in education? Are we finding people who kind of persist [00:30:00] through?
I think one of the things that's always been fascinating is some of the data around teacher persistence when they first get out of undergraduate or graduate school to kind of come and teach. Like the stats on the first five years have been pretty grim. Right. Right. And so from your vantage point, what are the positives of the state of teacher training and what are the things we should be really thinking about or worried about as we move forward here?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Okay, very good. So I'm very positive about teacher training. In our department, the early childhood department at Brooklyn College, our enrollment is up. And whereas in all other universities, it seems like in teacher ed, are down. Programs are down, they're really bleeding. They need more support. Our program is up. There's an enthusiasm, I think definitely around early childhood and the need to provide high quality instruction, right from the start.
So I'm very positive about that. I'm very positive about the creative advanced certificates that are available in the education space [00:31:00] now. And I think that that's really energizing for pre-service teachers or in-service teachers. And so I encourage universities to keep going with other or all different kinds of coursework that people can explore. I will say one thing that my next frontier is about getting scholarships for in-service teachers and pre-service prior to going out there. I think if we want to attract more people into the field, we know the obvious things. Pay teachers more. Treat them better. All of these different things. I think one really obvious thing that we don't ever talk about though is like, why don't we pay for people to go and get an education degree?
Jamie Williamson: Mm-hmm. Right? I've been screaming this one for a while. And I completely, completely agree. Part of me because I'm trying to kind of saw, crack that nut in some ways, it is a really challenging problem. I think if you're going to go into education, you shouldn't have to pay for your undergraduate period. I agree completely. And maybe if there's some caveat, as long as you work five years, 10 years, whatever the thing is. But you know, I almost think to navigate that and [00:32:00] also have a high quality experience for folks. Like are we at a point where we're looking at kind of almost the old state model of teacher colleges, where we have almost like a sort of school, but we have a full on teacher's college and really actually preparing pre-service teachers and have that be completely free for folks who are going into education.
Because I get a little bit upset sometimes when I hear about people and the load of, people's debts when they come out of undergraduate with a teaching degree. When you think about the starting salary of a teacher, like, this person's going to be broke forever. There's just no way to dig out of a hole of $150,000 in debt and making $50,000 a year. And so I think that we need to rethink some of those pathways for folks. And I love the research actually alternative pathways to certifications is actually really good. There's some other ways to get folks to that spot and the quality of the educator actually doesn't change dramatically. [00:33:00]
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: So one of the things I did was I reached out to, in addition to the grant work that we do with CUNY Reading Corps, I reached out to some funders and I said, if I opened a new course, would you fund scholarships for this? And again, I just wanted to start in a very small micro way. Without hesitation, they said yes, because we're in this teacher shortage. How else are we going to solve this? I said, great. So, you know, there went another grant and all of the students in a new course that I opened last fall, and then I ran it again this spring. If they passed the course with a B or higher and completed their tutoring, which is their field work, they received a scholarship to pay for that course.
Jamie Williamson: Wow. That's outstanding.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: So it is like my reverse way to do it. I just really want to make sure I'm lwalking the talk of what I'm saying. I really do believe in that. The other thing I want to say is, you wanted me to highlight a f a couple of really positive notes too. A system like CUNY is just incredible with regards to training pre-service teachers, because we have about [00:34:00] 76% of our students in pre-service training are persons of color. And in CUNY reading Corps, I believe, or maybe I'm giving you the percentage of our tutors who are students of color in CUNY Reading Corps. I mean, it's remarkable. So at the same time we're talking about teacher shortage. we've also, for decades, we have been talking about the need to diversify in the teacher pool. And so you have to find the right university to do this type of work. And I just feel really lucky it landed at CUNY. It's got it all. And so these CUNY tutors, people sometimes say like, how did it get off the ground with CUNY Reading Corps? I was like, well, I actually think it has a lot to do with the special sauce of the CUNY students and the CUNY tutors. They're individuals who overwhelmingly went to the New York City public schools. They're now trying to become a teacher to give back to their communities. Yeah. And in the midst of the pandemic, this was also where, I felt like this was like, this is what we need to do. The tutors were so [00:35:00] aligned. They were just like, this is absolutely what we need to do. They did not feel like this was burdensome or that this was more coursework or anything like that. They really felt the calling to do this. And it wasn't a job. Like even the tutors who we hire, they don't come to it like as if it's a job I do.
They feel like it's an academic opportunity.. And it's meaningful work. So I guess that is part is a job, but when it's meaningful, it feels different than a regular job.
Jamie Williamson: I would agree.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I would agree, too. You know, that brings it back to passion versus purpose.
Jamie Williamson: I'm even thinking about some, again, I did my school psychology training at Miami University in Ohio, in Oxford, Ohio. And the state of Ohio had a real school psych shortage for quite some, I think they still do. So they had developed this whole entire internship process where a lot of universities got funding for graduate students to go through the program. And there was all this incentive to make sure they were bringing out high quality school psychologists, but also [00:36:00] in a quick and timely manner. And I had a state paid internship through the state where I got to shadow and spend a year being a school psychologist alongside of my mentor, but actually doing some really great work. I just think there's so many models to explore, and ways to get folks out of either undergraduate or graduate school without taking out a lot of debt around some of these things and create a nice little, foundation for us to grow on. But I also have to applaud CUNY on this sort of diversity side of this. It's amazing. I've had so many conversations with other folks who teach at other schools. I don't want to pick on any of the Big 10 schools that I'm talking about here, specifically. But some friends who to teach in those programs and when I ask the question, how many students of color do you have in your foundation's class, like literally they I had to spend some time thinking about like, oh my gosh, I'm not sure, maybe one out of like a hundred. Like the percentage of kids going in some of these universities is so low. Oh, it's so low. And so, I think that we need, again [00:37:00] across the country to find ways to bring more diversity, both racial and I would say gender diversity into the conversation.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Well even on that gender piece, University Dean Ashleigh Thompson, when she started helping out with CUNY Reading Corps, one of the things she brought to the table was the NYC Men's Teach Initiative. I just feel like CUNY Reading Corps has had so many of these special moments and opportunities. I believe that was in the Fall of 21, so a year in, we had a partnership there, and that has been incredible too. So that is about bringing more men into the teaching profession, particularly men of color. And so we have CUNY with this incredible diversity. And I actually think I may have been right. I think the CUNYs, at the School of Ed level, I do believe it's in the high seventies for students of color. And I know CUNY reading Corps is around 76% of our tutors are students of color. And then you add this element to it and so it's really this incredible. [00:38:00] opportunity for those of us who really believe this in education to partner with an institute like this.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: One of the things that I keep hearing from this conversation, and one that that gets me really excited is this idea of integration and seeing beyond the work. We’ve probably talked about integration at our prior episode, but really it's that it's not just about reading. It's not just about one small discipline. You're talking about increasing diversity and empowering a future and current teaching force. You're talking about bringing this integration of passion and purpose, of thinking institutionally across so many different types of layers. You're thinking beyond yourself and you're getting deeper, and I love that, and there's so much magic to it. As I talk about this, there are more questions I want to ask. So I'm going to talk to my co-host and say that we only have about three minutes of Dr. Miles. And so I think I want to jump into the leadership reflection [00:39:00] questions. I'll choose one, you choose one. So the first one is, I admire you so much. I admire your work, and I know there's so many educators around who I speak to, not even just in New York City, like across the United States, across the globe, that we just admire so much. And there's so much magic that I'm seeing in the work that you're doing. I would like to humanize you a little bit. What I mean by that is, you came here, you're such a presence and you talk about your journey as a leader, as an educator, as a researcher. I'd like to know, though, about a particular time that you experienced a lot of challenge or even failure and how you were able to navigate that in your career.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Great question. Sure. I, I hate to keep it all on CUNY Reading Corps, but it's a great example, right? This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my career. When we got this off the ground, it had a lot of failures. It sounds now like it's this great thing that just kept growing and growing. There were so [00:40:00] many. starts and stops, stops and starts along the way. And when you think about it, schools kept opening and closing. And every time that happened throughout the pandemic, the whole initiative was destabilized. It almost like fell apart. And then we had to rebuild it or there would be then suddenly a vaccine mandate. And the DOE was down thousands of teachers. Right. So that destabilized us because we were so reliant on the school coordinator to help us out. At one point there was a decision made at Central with the previous administration that we could only do this in after school. That destabilized us. So we had to move all these kiddos that we were tutoring during the school day into after school. And also I was experienced constant failure. I think we just kept, and when I say we, I really mean the CUNY reading Core team, [00:41:00] Andrew Fletcher over at the DOE, I think we just kept this, this idea of like the child who needs us the most waiting for a tutoring session. Like when you think about that, you're like, well, we just have to keep going. So every time there was a no, sometimes I'll laugh, I'll say, we picked up the phone and we found someone who would say yes. And so we had to keep a really flexible mindset too. I think that's a big part of leadership, I guess, is that I couldn't just have it my way or the highway. It was like, all right, you're going to make us do this dance. And so we're going to stick with you all the way through until the initiative stabilizes.
Jamie Williamson: I think the conditions you just described are probably why more folks don't do research in schools, right?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Oh hundred percent. Because absolutely, you cannot control for the millions of variables that show up on a day-to-day basis. So those are the ones just top of mind too, right? And I could have listed 20 in five minutes.
Jamie Williamson: You probably could have [00:42:00] listed a hundred. Thank you so much for sharing. I do think the idea of, it's never just a linear progression forward, right? It’s more of, step forward, step back, sometimes two steps back and reflect and regather. So I really appreciate you sharing that.
One thing in my leadership practice that I spend a fair amount of time doing, one is I never feel like I'm doing enough. And you have just reinforced that today I'm not doing enough. I feel like I'm never doing enough and I do think a lot of leaders bring that kind of mindset to the table. But I also love it when I get to meet people and reflect and show a little gratitude and appreciation for all the great skills in others. I love this idea of experiencing awe, in a moment when you see someone doing something really incredible and just taking a moment and saying, oh my gosh. And then in sharing that appreciation and that work, I have a lot of colleagues who I love and adore who I get to spend a little time like being in awe of the great things that you're doing. It inspires me, it moves me, it motivates me, it pushes [00:43:00] me to think about things in a little different way and to challenge myself to set some of those really big audacious goals that feel a little scary to even verbalize out loud.
But I think those are some of the things that really drive us in such a good way. So if you could reflect on one or two things that when you look out and you see some folks in your space doing some work, what are some traits or things that really kind of caused you to take a moment and say like, wow, experience a little bit of awe or appreciation around in other leaders.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I've really been in awe of the individuals that came on to support this project. Because they came on at unique times when there was a very specific need and I think they saw the need too coming into it and they were experts in that. And it doesn't mean that you have to be the CEO or the director or whatever, but in fact the now, Dr. Erin Croke who runs the day-to-day of this. She and University Dean Thompson, they saw exactly what I [00:44:00] needed. I'm not an HR specialist. I'm not a budgeting specialist or all the operations pieces. I'm an academic. so I am in awe of people with that skill. I am truly in awe, and I think sometimes they don't get enough of the limelight on all of those things, but they're they are the people that keep this growing and scaling and the individuals. Max DeWard, Paola Jimenez. Josh Barocas, who came on. They were were grad students in my courses and individuals in my lab. And I remember them saying to me, do you think maybe you could use support with this? And I'd be like, yes, I do. I do exactly need that. And they would step in and execute those skills. And it would give me space too to do more. I think they really are so good at what they do and that enables me to try to be better at what I need to do. Yeah. We all have our areas of expertise and strengths. I think a team really gels when [00:45:00] we give each other space t be the leader in what we're each best at.
Jamie Williamson: I completely agree. And I think you're absolutely right about the idea of the finance budget kind of operational side of things. I'm an educator. I didn't know and I have had to learn how to run a really large nonprofit with about 400 employees, a thousand families, and running the finances for that. But don't think we talk about how important that sort of fiscal responsibility is and thinking about those things from a planning perspective. Because if we don't get that right, we can't do the fun stuff. Like there's a foundational kind of piece there that people often forget about.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Exactly. I get to go and do school visits, and I get to tweak the programs. I get to do all the contents specialty pieces. I get to now run the research and whatnot. And that's because the pieces you’re talking about are taken care of. I was just on a school visit and it was like, oh, I can do this because the CUNY Reading Corps [00:46:00] team is really solidly doing all of those things so that tutors are being paid and everything's accounted for, and observations of the tutors are happening. That's like one of the most important things we could be doing.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: So I always think about that too, and in leaders is that you're not doing it all by yourself. You're not. But there's a team of people with expertise and you're all helping when needed. And that speaks a lot to time, right? When leaders think about, yes, implementing a new program or disseminating a new program, you can't do it all by yourself because you physically don't have the time and energy to do that.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: That’s right. The program would still just be over at Brooklyn College and it would be great. It would be a great program just over at Brooklyn College. But I think I had to accept help, and these incredible people came to me with their expertise that was different than mine, this is how we've been able to grow. Yeah. Yeah. We could do a
Jamie Williamson: We could do whole podcast on accepting help. We can have a whole leadership discussion on just learning to accept help and knowing [00:47:00] your strengths and working with teammates.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Yes, definitely. Well, we do have to wrap up this podcast episode. Do you want any final words for Dr. Miles before we end?
Jamie Williamson: I just really appreciate everything that you're doing for the, the New York City kids, everything you're doing for pre-service teacher training, everything you're doing from a research perspective. I hope that folks listen to this and you, maybe if there's somebody sitting out in Des Moines, Iowa, who's training pre-service teachers who think to themselves, there might be a different way to do this. There may be more effective ways to help get teachers ready for that experience they're going face when they do get into a classroom. So thank you for your courage on that. Thank you for your vision and thank you for your incredibly hard work to get there. It is such an exciting time right now.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I have colleagues across the country that I'm about to email as soon as you leave to say, oh my gosh, you need to connect. But thank you so much Dr. Miles, for being here, and thank you to all our READers who are leading in their schools, whether they're in their classroom or they're in their schools, or maybe they're families [00:48:00] We have a lot of researchers that also listen to this. So, I'm going say this again. I'm trying to make LEADers on READers a thing. It's not working. So we'll just say READers who lead, who are joining this community, and we thank you so much for being in this community and thank you for being here.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Thank you. It's been my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity to share.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Thank you. And for all of you that are listening or you're watching, feel free to join the conversation about leading and reading on all of our social media pages, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I think we have LinkedIn, at least I'm on LinkedIn. I like to share this. Are you on? You're on social media?
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I’m terrible. I'm terrible. I’ mmot I keep trying and. I keep failing. It's a failure. That's social media presence is a failure.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Again, not a strength. Not in your time. Not in your time.
Dr. Katie Pace Miles: It's not my area of strength. I'm going to get better at it.
Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Absolutely. While I'm the official sign off. Thank you, Jamie. Thank you Dr. Miles. And until next time, READers!
In this special episode of LEAD on READ, Katie Pace Miles, PhD, discusses her leadership work at CUNY Reading Corps, which pairs high dose tutoring for students in NYC with training for pre-service graduate and undergraduate teachers in structured literacy programs. High dose tutoring has received a lot of attention in current research and popular press to target the needs of struggling readers.
Dr. Miles explains this model of direct service and offers insights for program implementation, scalability, and sustainability. Listeners will gain information and inspiration for reconceptualizing service and partnership models for students and educators, especially in higher education. This LEAD on READ episode is a guidebook for leadership and entrepreneurship toward disrupting the educational status quo for better reading outcomes and support for students.
Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”
As co-founder of CUNY Reading Corps, Katie Pace Miles, PhD, discusses the lessons she learned in implementing and scaling this direct service program. CUNY Reading Corps trains graduate and undergraduate pre-service teachers as they serve as tutors for struggling readers in the NYC DOE.
What it means to be a leader right now
Dr. Miles emphasizes the importance of leading with empathy.
“I set ambitious goals. I tried to do something to support the community, and at every step along the journey, I was humbled by how much empathy I needed to bring to the table.”
Disrupting the status quo in higher education
In episode 37, Dr. Miles discussed her idea of pairing high dose tutoring with field work practicum experiences in her classes. In this episode of LEAD on READ, Dr. Miles expands upon this program through CUNY Reading Corps.
“We broke out of the preexisting notions of what field work needed to look like in the university setting.”
In developing this program, Dr. Miles adopted the mindset of institutional entrepreneurship by addressing the needs of university students and students in NYC during the pandemic.
Read more Institutional entrepreneurship (Battilana, Leca & Boxenbaum, 2009) here.
Dr. Miles reflects on the tutoring-field work model:
“I'm going to train you and you're going to actually provide this service. But it's not just about the child. It's also about you as the pre-service teacher feeling like you can make a difference like this. It’s about you feeling well-equipped to implement explicit, systematic, multimodal instruction – not just talk about it in class.”
The mechanisms for scalability and sustainability
Since its inception, CUNY Reading Corps has expanded from Brooklyn College to multiple CUNY campuses and has been adopted by other universities across the country. Dr. Miles offers lessons and insights about scalability:
Demonstrate the quality and fidelity of the program implementation.
Identify your expertise and collaborate with others who can help actualize your vision.
Seek guidance from institutional actors who can provide support and expertise.
Leverage support from external critical actors who can provide insights on mechanisms for scalability such as identifying resources and developing partnerships.
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About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.