It’s easier to be ideological if you don’t have children sitting in front of you day after day. When you’re trying an approach and it’s not working, you have to back up and say, ‘I have to try something else.’ You can’t say [students] don’t fit the program.
~Dottie Fowler, a 15-year veteran teacher, 1998 (Education Week)
Parents, whose children have been identified as having dyslexia, are upset with university teacher education programs. They will tell you that students in public schools don’t get the reading instruction they need.
Here’s a post from several years ago. It’s still a problem that often divides teachers and parents. Why do parents see teachers as unprepared when it comes to reading instruction?
In 1998, an Education Week report titled, “Ed. Schools Getting Heat on Reading,” holds some clues.
Back then there were calls for states to revise their reading standards. Louisa Moats, now seen as an authority on dyslexia, was directing a project with the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development.
Reading scores on the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were the focus. Forty percent of U.S. 9-year-olds scored below the “basic” level in reading. But there have always been questions surrounding the NAEP and how scores are interpreted and reported to the public, especially in light of school reform.
At this time, concern centered on future teachers in the nation’s universities, that they should take more classes covering reading instruction.
Prospective teachers typically take two or three courses in reading before being certified to teach elementary school, according to a survey conducted last spring by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in Washington. In some states–such as Maryland–they are required to take only a single course. And some teachers who enter the classroom through alternative routes may receive no formal instruction at all in reading.
While mention is made of alternative teaching routes, groups like Teach for America, who get to be teachers after only 5 weeks of training, didn’t get much attention.
Nor did charter schools. Who’s teaching reading in those schools? Both Teach for America and KIPP got a pass when it came to reading instruction.
University prepared teachers became the enemies. The message has been that they used whole language and didn’t understand phonics.
The Learning First Alliance–which includes the two national teachers’ unions and the leading groups representing superintendents, principals, and school boards–is also calling for policy changes to enhance teachers’ knowledge, including revised course-content and graduation requirements for teacher education programs, tougher accreditation standards for institutions, and stiffer licensing rules for elementary teachers.
Moats said, There’s a lot of talk about the importance of phonological processing and understanding early reading. But very few people actually understand what that means in practice. Misinterpretations are rampant, superficial treatment is rampant, and poor application is rampant.
The sticking point!
In the same Education Week report, Professor Richard L. Allington, a prominent reading researcher, noted, the amount of funding for teacher education in my 25 years [in the field] keeps declining.
Teacher pedagogy can’t be improved, nor can better phonics instruction be added.
Allington noted that teachers don’t get as much supervision or demonstration teaching if resources are stripped from teacher preparation programs. Ed. schools were made to look like they failed, but they were losing resources just like public schools!
While groups like The Learning Alliance were getting tougher on those studying to be teachers in university settings, money has always flowed to Teach for America. The novices often move from the classroom into high powered administrative positions. Who has questioned their understanding of reading instruction?
The other point that should not go unnoticed, is that this uproar about teacher preparation took place in 1998—twenty years ago!
After NCLB, Race to the Top, and Common Core, what kind of ed. school reading programs do we find now? Who’s worrying about reading when it comes to teacher preparation at the university level? Who’s doing further reading research?
Instead, we hear that more children than ever before have dyslexia!
Children, who struggle to read today, should not have been used as pawns in the politicized, education reform battle.
Students will continue to have reading difficulties until teacher education programs are well-funded, and the focus is put on preparing real professional teachers who understand individual reading needs.
Ann Bradley. “Ed Schools Getting Heat on Reading” Education Week. February 18, 1998.