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Published on February 04, 2020

Education Programs get an ‘A’ in National 'Teacher Prep Review’

Susannah Richards
Associate Professor of Education Susannah Richards instructs teacher candidates.

Eastern Connecticut State University received two of only three “A” grades in all of Connecticut in the “2020 Teacher Prep Review” for quality of instruction in the review’s “early reading” category. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) announced the results on Jan. 27 and highlights two Eastern programs — elementary education (B.S.) and elementary education/certification (M.S.) — for utilizing best practices in preparing teacher candidates on how to teach children to read.

“We are happy to recognize the strong preparation in reading instruction that both your undergraduate and graduate programs provide to your elementary teacher candidates,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “These programs were part of a small group — only about a quarter of programs nationwide — to qualify for an ‘A.’”

Eastern is the only college or university in Connecticut to receive an “A” for both its undergraduate- and graduate-level programs in the “early reading” category. The two programs received high grades due to explicit instruction on each of the five components of reading; support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices; and evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests and fieldwork.

The five reading components in which Eastern’s programs perform well include phonemic awareness (ability to manipulate sounds in spoken words); phonics (method of teaching by correlating sounds with letters); fluency; vocabulary; and comprehension.

With these components in mind, Associate Professor of Education Susannah Richards said, “The goal is for students (teacher candidates) to find effective ways for their students to develop the literacy skills they need to be successful; to support their learners no matter what they’re able to do.”

Speaking to Connecticut’s downward trend in early reading literacy, the NCTQ wrote in a press release: “Each year, well over 11,000 public school students in the fourth grade are added to Connecticut’s ranks of nonreaders. The lion’s share are black and Hispanic children struggling in the face of an inequitable education system, with their schools unwilling or unable to provide the reading instruction that decades of research has found to be highly effective. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, making successful reading instruction essential to achieving educational equity.”

Now in its fourth edition, the “Teacher Prep Review” assigns a team of literacy experts to examine every course a program requires in early reading, looking at the planned topics to be covered in each class, readings, assignments, practice opportunities and tests, as well as rating the quality of the textbooks used in each course.

The only other “A” granted in the state went to Western Connecticut State University’s undergraduate program in elementary education. By comparison, 10 of the remaining 11 teacher prep programs analyzed by the review received a “D” or worse. To see how all Connecticut programs performed: https://www.nctq.org/review/search/standard/Early-Reading_-CT-

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The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is a nonpartisan research and policy group, committed to modernizing the teaching profession and based on the belief that all children deserve effective teachers. More information about NCTQ can be found on our website, www.nctq.org.

Written by Michael Rouleau