What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning

National Council on Teacher Quality
May 2006

We know what it takes to teach reading. Thirty years of research have shown time and again that teaching young children to read is a science, and for it to take, certain steps must be followed sequentially. Because upwards of 40 percent of U.S. children fail to learn to read (a group comprised of youngsters of all races and economic backgrounds), one would expect universities to work double time to ensure that future educators possess the tools they'll need to teach reading well. Wrong. That's the central finding of this disturbing new study by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The survey upon which the report is built is notable for its breadth (72 schools representing the range of college selectivity in America were reviewed, and 222 required courses and their syllabi were studied). It looked at course materials to find how often professors who train future K-5 teachers lectured on the science of teaching reading. Despite generous grading parameters (passing grades could be earned even if a professor devoted just 20 percent of lectures to the science of reading), just 11 of the institutions surveyed (or 15 percent) taught all five components of the science of reading as codified by the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Among the prominent schools failing their education students: the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina. There are eight other findings, ranging from the disappointing (courses claiming to provide a "balanced" approach to reading instruction ignore the science of reading) to the outrageous (low expectations rule, with professors placing more emphasis on keeping their classes "fun"). If time is of the essence, you can read USA Today's brief but useful squib, or the longish executive summary. But this report is worth taking the time to absorb in its entirety. Find it here.

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