A+ Reading Programs National Council on Teacher Quality

Every year, over a million children, most of them black and Hispanic, enter the fourth grade unable to read. Fully half of elementary teacher preparation programs have addressed this inequity head-on, preparing future teachers in the science of reading. But some programs have answered the call better than others.

For over a decade, the National Council on Teacher Quality has tracked the quality of reading instruction in elementary teacher preparation programs. At a minimum, programs must ensure elementary teachers understand how to teach the five components of reading science: (1) developing in their students awareness of the sounds made by spoken words (phonemic awareness); (2) mapping those speech sounds onto letters and letter combinations (phonics); (3) giving students extended practice for reading words so that they learn to read without a lot of effort (fluency); (4) building student vocabulary, a skill closely associated with the final component; (5) developing their students’ understanding of written information (comprehension).

But the programs most committed to preparing great reading teachers cover these five components comprehensively, by using high-quality textbooks, dedicating a substantial number of class sessions to key topics, and assigning graded work in the science of reading. These programs, which earn an A+ in the Teacher Prep Review, are few and far between.

Few programs receive an A+ on the Early Reading standard

How to Become an A+ Program

Pick the Right Textbook

Hundreds of textbooks address reading instruction, but few cover the science accurately and comprehensively. Our reading experts have cataloged these texts, conferring a rating of either ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable,’ to support teacher educators in selecting a single comprehensive textbook or multiple complementary texts to fully cover the science of reading.

Deliver dedicated instruction

Each component of the science of reading plays a crucial role in literacy development—and each should be the subject of dedicated class time. A+ programs spend at least two class sessions on each of the five components of the reading science.

Provide opportunities for graded practice

To be sure their teacher candidates enter the classroom ready to teach reading, A+ programs provide plenty of opportunities for candidates to apply their knowledge. Exams, writing assignments, and instructional practice play a critical role in reinforcing lessons from the course.

Exemplary Programs

In the 2020 Teacher Prep Review, 18 programs earned an A+ on the Early Reading standard for their comprehensive approach to preparing teachers in the science of reading. We spoke to teacher educators at three institutions and have published statements and syllabi from each. These programs provide a roadmap for any instructor aiming to strengthen their reading instruction.

Lewis-Clark State College

At Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, a two-course series provides a foundation in reading science with an emphasis on practice. Through collaboration across the program, instructors ensure candidates apply what they have learned about reading instruction during their clinical experiences.

...our students have been able to see the concepts we discuss in class used in real-world classrooms. They come back to our classes excited to share what they’ve seen and impressed that what they are learning is ‘real’ and ‘true.’"

Marshall University

At Marshall University in West Virginia, Dr. Mindy Allenger’s two-part course, Reading in the Elementary Grades, provides elementary teacher candidates with a full year of comprehensive instruction emphasizing applied knowledge and differentiated instruction.

How will you teach that information and how will you reach every student?"

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Through courses dedicated to reading instruction at the primary and intermediate levels, Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina prepares teacher candidates to make data-informed decisions around reading instruction. A partnership with the local school district ensures opportunities for practice and coaching from reading experts.

Many preservice teachers learned to read without experiencing significant difficulties, so they incorrectly assume that teaching reading will be a simple task."