[EDLING:1602] For Better Reading Skills Among Children, Teach Their Teachers Well

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU
Mon May 22 13:42:00 UTC 2006

http://chronicle.com/daily/2006/05/2006052205n.htm, Monday, May 22, 2006

For Better Reading Skills Among Children, Teach Their Teachers Well,
Report Says

Poor reading skills among America's schoolchildren can be directly traced
to how their teachers were trained, according to a report, scheduled for
release this morning, that describes the reading-instruction field as a
"free-for-all." The report, issued by the National Council on Teacher
Quality, looks at what aspiring elementary-school teachers learn about
reading instruction during their undergraduate years by examining course
syllabi and required texts from 72 randomly selected elementary-education
programs. The sample represents all types of institutions and constitutes
5.6 percent of the institutions that offer elementary-teacher
certification. The report says most education schools do not teach the
science of reading, an expression that refers to research-tested findings
on how people learn to read. Only 15 percent of the sampled institutions
taught all the components of the science of reading, and nearly one-third
made no reference to reading science in any of their courses, the study

The study also found that:

Courses claiming to provide a "balanced" approach ignored the science of

Phonics was the component of reading instruction most frequently taught to
aspiring teachers, though it was taught in only one out of seven college
education classes.

The methods of teaching reading were presented as equally valid, even
though scientific study has proved what forms work best.

College instructors placed too few demands on their education-program

The quality of almost all the reading textbooks was poor because the
content was not based on solid scientific findings.

The report includes several recommendations for improving reading
instruction. Education programs that do not teach the science of reading
should not be eligible for accreditation, the report suggests. The report
also recommends that states develop licensing tests based on strong
reading standards. On the federal level, the report suggests that
elementary-school teachers be required to pass a test in reading to
achieve "highly qualified teacher" status and that programs be eligible
for federal funds to improve faculty expertise in reading. The report
suggests that college education programs hire faculty members with such
expertise and calls on publishers to hire experts to write better reading
textbooks. The report, "What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About
Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning," is scheduled to be
posted today on the council's Web site.

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