A Serious Approach to Reading

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Following an encouraging trend — and moving toward meeting one of our State Teacher Policy Yearbook goals — Wisconsin recently adopted a content-knowledge test for elementary licensure that focuses on the science of reading. The Wisconsin test is modeled after the highly regarded Massachusetts test on reading that assesses teacher candidates on their knowledge of "the big five" of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. And no wonder — Sandra Stotsky, who was instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts test, played a big role in getting the legislation passed in Wisconsin as well.

Stephen Sawchuk's reporting on the new legislation shows just why such an assessment is necessary. The associate dean of teacher preparation at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Cheryl R. Hanley-Maxwell told him that  "I would say [the Wisconsin test is] focused on one particular way of teaching reading."  Considering the immense evidence base the National Reading Panel amassed in support of "the big five," this is a little like saying that evolution is just "one particular way" of explaining biological change. Luckily for Wisconsin's elementary school students, the test will make sure that ed schools give proper place to the science of reading in their courses to prepare teachers.

-Graham Drake