Is the science of reading coming to the rescue in a national ‘literacy crisis’? And how can superintendents and their instructional teams ensure this approach gains traction in their classrooms?
About a third of the nation’s fourth-graders are not reading at a basic level, according to the latest data, and that problem is being compounded by the continuing absence of scientifically based reading practices from most educator training, says the latest Reading Foundations review of teacher preparation programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Only 25% of teacher prep programs cover all five of the core components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. At the same time, about four in 10 prep programs continue to teach instructional practices—such as the “three-cueing method“—that have proven to impede student learning, the Council asserts. The organization expresses particular concern that a majority of prep programs “fail to adequately address phonemic awareness.”
“We’re in the midst of a long-overdue revolution on the science of reading, but teacher prep programs haven’t fully caught up,” National Council on Teacher Quality President Heather Peske says in the report. “Prospective teachers—and certainly their students—deserve far better.”
How to recruit the science of reading
The report offers several suggestions for state policymakers, such as setting new literacy-training standards for teacher preparation programs, holding those programs accountable and including the science of reading on teacher licensure exams. But what can district leaders and their teams do to entrench the science of reading in their classrooms? The National Council on Teacher Quality recommends:
- Be strategic in recruiting new teachers: To save time and money on PD, focus hiring efforts on teachers who have graduated from preparation programs that prioritize scientifically based reading instruction. Hiring from such programs also sends a signal to all colleges of education that the science of reading is in demand.
- Prioritize field experiences that focus on scientifically based reading instruction: Bringing in student teachers from science-of-reading-based prep programs can give districts a head start in hiring educators who are already becoming comfortable with this approach. These student-teachers can be matched with mentor teachers who have effectively adopted scientifically-based reading practices.
- Provide PD to veteran teachers who were not trained in the science of reading.
- Adopt high-quality reading curriculums along with aligned, job-embedded PD: Share curriculum resources with teacher preparation partners so student-teachers can begin learning about this curriculum during their field experience.