When it comes to reading, we've all got a lot of work to do

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Last month, the Literacy Research Panel of the International Reading Association posted a response to the Teacher Prep Review which called on us, in essence, to do more.

We will.

For the first edition of the Review, we looked at hundreds of elementary and special education teacher preparation programs across the country to see if they were ensuring their candidates knew how to teach foundational reading skills and address the needs of struggling readers and English Language Learners. 

What we found was appalling: fewer than one in five programs adequately teach what the Literacy Research Panel itself calls the "five pillars" of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Clearly, the first order of business is to strengthen teacher preparation programs in this crucial area. Our strategy is to put information about program quality in the hands of teacher prep's consumers -- aspiring teachers and school districts -- to enable them to drive improvement through the market. But obviously there's a huge role that reading experts should play in guiding programs on how to train teachers to use proven reading instruction strategies.

The Literacy Research Panel suggests that we look at other areas of training teachers in reading. Actually, we've already started work in developing standards that address the training of teachers in adolescent literacy, emergent literacy in young children, and Common Core reading and writing. It takes us two years of research and field testing to work out new standards, but, not to worry, we will apply them in future editions.

But just because we haven't looked at every aspect of teacher training in reading yet shouldn't distract us from the main point: thousands of new teachers -- and their students -- are not being set up for success. Let's work together to bring this situation to an end.

(You can find our full response to the Literacy Research Panel here.)