- As support grows for instruction grounded in “the science of reading,” an analysis of nearly 700 teacher prep programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality found only 25% adequately teach all five components of scientifically backed reading lessons. Those components include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
- The NCTQ report released Tuesday said teachers should have a strong understanding of all five elements or students may face challenges in becoming fully literate. Additionally, the review found that another 25% of teacher prep programs don’t sufficiently address any of these components. The 693 programs studied were housed in 578 colleges and universities.
- Despite phonemic awareness being an important first step in a child’s reading journey, NCTQ said, the skill is the least-addressed part of the reading curriculum in teacher prep programs. Phonemic awareness is a foundational reading concept, allowing students to connect sounds they hear to letters they see.
The renewed focus on and examination of the evidence-based literacy approach follows a dip in average reading scores to levels not seen since the 1990s on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This has left schools looking for ways to counter learning losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Past estimates have found that while three in 10 children struggle to read (and that rate has grown higher since the pandemic), research indicates that more than 90% of all students could learn to read if they had access to teachers who employed scientifically based reading instruction,” the authors of the NCTQ review wrote.
States can also play a role by implementing policies to change teacher prep program requirements and regulations, the NCTQ report said. For example, states like California and Illinois have increasingly embraced “science of reading” standards.
Educators are typically wary of any one-size-fits-all literacy approach, leading to use of multiple strategies based on students’ needs and backgrounds.
In its report, NCTQ also cited evidence that teacher preparation programs fail to train future educators on literacy instruction for English learners and struggling readers. The review found 71% of these programs provide less than two instructional hours to support English learners in reading, while 88% offer no practice opportunities here.
For struggling readers, NCTQ said, 58% of teacher prep programs dedicate less than two instructional hours focusing on literacy instruction for this population. On top of that, 81% offer no practice opportunities with this group.
NCTQ suggests that school districts try to focus their recruitment strategies on hiring primarily teachers from programs that adequately instruct on the science of reading. Districts should also provide professional development to teachers who are already working in schools and did not receive training on this literacy approach, NCTQ said.