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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

38% of ed schools get 'F' in prepping teachers to teach reading

Thirty-eight percent of teacher-education programs are failing to prepare future teachers to teach reading using the most effective methods, according to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, writes Kate Rix on The 74. Fifty-one percent of programs earned an "F" or "D," while 23 percent received an "A."

Teaching reading is the top priority in the early grades. As districts and states shift to what's called the "science of reading," many veteran teachers -- trained to use "balanced literacy" or "whole language" methods that don't work very well -- need to retraining. You'd think the new teachers would be prepared, but many ed schools are slow to change.

Teachers need to understand how to teach phonemic awareness (hearing and manipulating sounds in words), phonics (matching sounds with letters), fluency (reading without much effort), vocabulary and comprehension, says NCTQ. Most teacher-prep programs don't cover all five adequately: Phonemic awareness is the most neglected.

In addition, most programs offer little instruction in teaching struggling readers or English Learners, and very few offer opportunities to practice with these high-need groups, the report concludes.

What are they doing instead? Every teacher-ed program claims to care about "equity" and "justice." Surely, the best way to achieve those goals is to teach kids to read -- not guess. They're going to need to read books without pictures. Thirty-seven percent of fourth-graders "cannot read at a basic level, and proficiency rates are even lower for children of color, low-income students and those with learning differences," Rix writes. More than 70 percent of special education and K-2 teachers aren't using research-based methods, according to research from 2020.

Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia have banned "balanced literacy" in favor of scientifically backed methods, writes Rix. Ohio may do the same. New York City, the nation’s largest district, is phasing in "science of reading" methods and curriculum.

Most California districts still use "balanced literacy, writes Joe Hong on CalMatters. Most teachers aren't trained in research-based methods.

Santiago Cuevas, a first grade teacher in San Francisco received very little training in phonics instruction at San Francisco State University, he told Hong. “It’s kind of strange how we didn’t talk about the science of reading at all at SF State.”

Cuevas studied the “science of reading” on his own to pass the state's Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA), which is required for a teaching credential.

California will replace RICA -- too many teacher candidates fail the test -- with a new performance assessment that "focuses on how to teach literacy using phonics and other foundational reading skills."

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