Is it too early to pop the bubbly?

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For the first time since NCTQ began publishing program ratings in our Teacher Prep Review, more elementary teacher prep programs are embracing reading science than not. That's somewhat of a milestone. We can now report that 51 percent of over 1,000 programs earn an A or B grade for their coverage of scientifically-based reading instruction, up from just 35 percent seven years ago.

The latest findings are a positive sign for a newly energized movement across the nation to bring down notoriously and uniquely high rates of illiteracy in the United States. I'm incredulous that we still allow a third of all kids to slip through the cracks, never learning how to read. Given the lack of progress by the nation on this front, this news comes as a real shot in the arm.

It is also a positive sign for the strategy behind the Teacher Prep Review, as we can now supply clear evidence that our rating system is leading programs to make changes that heretofore they have been unwilling to make. It shows rating systems, which are now pervasive, work. Whether you're deciding where to have bypass surgery or go to college, you can see a comparison of how the institution stacks up against others. Why? Though no one likes to be rated, ratings drive improvement.

While the success we see in adoption of reading science among teacher prep programs really is cause for celebration, I still can't help but feel that it's too early to pop the champagne.

To state the obvious, there are still a substantial number of programs (507) that do not subscribe to reading science despite the definitive research behind it. Nearly 40 percent of programs earned a score of D or F. What will it take to move the needle here?

In the coming year, this is the question that NCTQ will seek to answer. We will engage researchers and practitioners to inform an effort to strengthen our work in this area. Specifically, we know states are an under-activated lever for bringing programs on board with reading science. However, it's not enough for a state to implement a strong licensing test that specifically measures aspiring teachers' knowledge of scientifically-based reading instruction, as we originally thought. They must also publish first-time pass rates on these tests, so programs take ownership for steeping future teachers in this content. They must hold programs accountable for the quality of their reading coursework.

We are itching to dig deeper and engage national and state leaders in conversations on how to develop the will to fight for what's right for kids when it comes to reading instruction. Now that the issue of America's reading crisis is getting so much attention (thank you Emily Hanford!), we expect the pressure on programs will be intense. You can bet we will continue to do our part.

Make sure to check out the new 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction.

You can also explore the data for yourself and see all program scores in the Teacher Prep Review Database.