Actions for teacher preparation programs
Use the detailed feedback NCTQ provided in your program score to determine whether courses adequately teach all components, and where there are opportunities for growth.
- Although all five components are important, we recommend paying especially close attention to whether your program provides in-depth instruction on phonemic awareness, the most commonly overlooked component.
- Be sure to look at the quality across all sections of a course to determine if there is consistent quality or additional room for improvement. When multiple sections of a course are taught by different faculty members, NCTQ only reviews one section; it is important for programs to review for quality across all sections of a course.
Consider how to modify existing courses to include more scientifically based reading instruction.
- More coursework is not always the answer. High-performing programs range in the number of courses they require, but all use high-quality background materials, sufficient instructional time (at least 34 direct instructional hours), aligned measures of knowledge, and opportunities for practice.
- Even adjusting a few lecture topics and assignments to focus on core components of reading instruction could make a big difference for aspiring teachers' understanding of reading instruction. The strongest programs in our sample, like Western Colorado University (Undergraduate, CO) or Olivet Nazarene University (Undergraduate, IL), have anywhere from two to seven courses dedicated to reading, with some time devoted to other topics (e.g., children's literature or writing).
Ensure practice opportunities give candidates the chance to apply all components of effective reading instruction.
- While many reading courses have field opportunities, candidates are not always required to practice specific elements of what they have learned, meaning they may never get the opportunity to give a fluency assessment or teach decoding strategies. Rather than requiring candidates to practice teaching a lesson without further parameters on the content of the lessons, be sure candidates have specific opportunities to frequently practice teaching or assessing each of the core components of reading.
Use high-quality, research-based background materials.
- Textbooks provide an important resource to candidates while they are in their preparation program and serve as a reference during their years in the classroom. Ensuring these materials are of high quality provides teachers with reliable resources. Textbooks and other background materials vary widely in quality. As part of the revised standard, NCTQ examined all required instructional resources. Courses should use high-quality, research-based background materials such as those in NCTQ's database of Reading Instructional Materials, which includes a review of all background materials analyzed in the Teacher Prep Review 2023 sample. High-quality materials cover the components of reading in sufficient depth, do not contain content contrary to research-based practices, and use high-quality research support. Further, since some candidates may start their careers teaching in districts that still employ balanced literacy curricula, it is important to teach candidates about valid and reliable assessments, and to offer examples of scope and sequences for phonemic awareness and phonics.
Eliminate instruction on content contrary to research-based practices.
- Work with instructors across all sections of a course (when the same course is taught by multiple instructors), so they do not teach practices that science has proven are not the best way to teach children how to read. For a comprehensive explanation of some contrary practices, see our Technical Report (pg. 65).
Provide support to build capacity across the entire preparation program to promote scientifically based reading instruction.
- Consider offering additional training for current faculty who may not be well versed in the science of reading.
- When hiring reading instructors, ask for evidence that they are both well versed in and committed to teaching candidates about scientifically based reading instruction and will not teach content contrary to research-based practices.
- Invite reading experts to review course syllabi and materials.
- Use networks (such as Stronger Together: The Alliance for Reading Science in Higher Education, The Reading League, National Center on Improving Literacy, Center for the Success of English Learners, or the International Dyslexia Association) to connect with experts in scientifically based reading instruction to improve program quality.