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U program among top in U.S. for preparing future teachers in the ‘science of reading’

The undergraduate teacher preparation program at the University of Utah has been recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for its rigorous preparation of future teachers in how to teach reading, earning an “A” grade in NCTQ’s new report “Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.”

The program is among just 23% nationwide to earn an “A” from NCTQ for meeting standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction—often called the “science of reading.”

National data shows that more than one-third of fourth-grade students, over 1.3 million children, cannot read at a basic level. By preparing teachers in the methods that research has shown to work best, these devastating results can be changed.

According to Mary D. Burbank, the associate dean for Teacher Education, the U relies on multi-disciplinary partnerships across campus to prepare teachers. This NCTQ recognition reflects the contributions of faculty in the Urban Institute for Teacher Education, the Department of Educational Psychology, and the University of Utah Reading Clinic.

“The significance of these interdisciplinary linkages is evident in our approach to preparing teachers of reading,” Burbank said. “Taken together, these entities contribute to teacher preparation through investigations into cutting-edge research, practice-based experiences, and collaboration with partners in classrooms and schools.”

To evaluate the quality of preparation being provided, a team of experts at NCTQ analyzed syllabi, including lecture schedules and topics, background reading materials, class assessments, assignments, and opportunities to practice instruction in required literacy courses for undergraduate elementary teacher candidates at the University of Utah. 

To earn an “A,” programs needed to meet NCTQ’s targets for coverage of the five core components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Programs also need to not teach more than three instructional methods that are unsupported by the research on effective reading instruction.

While some portion of children will learn to read naturally, over five decades of research have established the components of explicit, scientifically based reading instruction that help most students become successful readers. 

Research suggests that over 90% of children could learn to read if their teachers used instructional methods grounded in the science of reading. The University of Utah is proud to be recognized among the programs ensuring that future elementary teachers enter the classroom equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to help students become strong readers.

The mission of the teacher preparation program at the U is to prepare educators to serve all students and educational communities in all their rich diversity, including paying attention to language, culture and socioeconomic status. Teacher preparation programs, curricula, planning and collaboration with district and community partners emphasize learner success.

Specific coursework includes:

  • learning and development; 
  • child and adolescent development; 
  • multiple courses designed to support children with disabilities; 
  • courses linked to language development and assessment for language learners, 
  • and courses in classroom management. 

Evidence-based practices play an important role in shaping the preparation of educators for the daily work of classrooms and schools. 

The new NCTQ analysis of teacher preparation programs’ coverage of the science of reading was developed over the course of two years, involving teams of literacy experts, researchers, teacher preparation leaders, and educators. NCTQ evaluated 693 traditional undergraduate and graduate programs across the country, including eight in Utah. Overall, just 112 programs earned an A and 48 earned an A+.

“My goal is to ensure that the teachers who graduate from our programs are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and practical experiences that prepare them to work with the diverse and varied needs of children in today’s classrooms and schools,” said Frankie Santos Laanan, dean of the College of Education. “A commendation by NCTQ in the area of reading reflects our faculty members’ commitments to preparation informed by research on best practices and their commitments to success for all children.

See the NCTQ report for more information about the University of Utah’s coverage of the science of reading and to see how the University of Utah compares to other programs in Utah or across the country.