Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction

Research Rundown Issue: March '20
Publisher: National Council on Teacher Quality
Date Published: January '20


In an evaluation of 1,047 traditional elementary teacher preparation programs and 58 alternative teacher preparation programs, the National Center on Teacher Quality found that only 26 percent of prep programs adequately cover all five of the essential components of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Importantly, their analysis found that phonemic awareness, the first skill students should master if they are going to become successful readers, remains the least likely to be taught in a program’s coursework. NCTQ also noted that teacher preparation programs need to improve in providing practical skills and tools to teacher candidates so they can implement the methods once they enter the classroom. Finally, NCTQ reviewed required textbooks and found that 40 percent are “inadequate” for teaching the science of reading, with many of them promoting unproven strategies.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

According to NCTQ’s analysis, six of Minnesota’s 21 teacher preparation programs adequately cover all of the essential components of reading, with another eight covering four of them. This is significant because research has long linked third-grade reading proficiency with graduation and drop-out rates, with a long-term study finding that 88 percent of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade. In Minnesota, there are persistent achievement gaps between 3rd-grade white students and students of color. While PELSB continues rulemaking on the teacher prep unit and program regulations, teacher preparation programs should also work to ensure their programs cover all five of the essential components of reading, as well as provide teacher candidates with the skills to successfully implement them, and take inventory of the textbooks they use to make sure they support scientifically-based reading instruction and are based on consensus research.

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