South's Teacher Prep for Reading Earns An 'A' Grade
Posted on June 15, 2023 by Lance Crawford
The undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs at University of South Alabama have been recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality for their rigorous preparation of future teachers in how to teach reading, earning an “A” grade in the council’s new report, Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.
South’s programs are among just 23 percent nationwide to earn an ‘A’ for meeting standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction — often called the “science of reading.”
“I am so excited about the news that our programs have received an ‘A’ from the National Council on Teacher Quality,” said Dr. Lauren Brannan, assistant professor in the department of leadership and teacher education. “My colleagues and I have worked very hard to design courses that contain the essential content knowledge for teaching reading and provide ample opportunities for our candidates to apply this knowledge within the coursework and within field-based experiences, where they can receive coaching and feedback.”
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, those results can change.
To evaluate the quality of preparation being provided, the National Council on Teacher Quality analyzed syllabi, including lecture schedules and topics, background reading materials, class assessments, assignments and opportunities to practice instruction in required literacy courses for undergraduate and graduate elementary teacher candidates at University of South Alabama.
To earn an ‘A,’ programs needed to meet targets for coverage of the five core components of scientifically based reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension — and 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 percent of children could learn to read if their teachers used instructional methods grounded in the science of reading.
“We continue to strive to teach our students the science behind reading and develop educators who are critical thinkers when it comes to understanding scientifically, research-supported rationale and instructional methods for teaching reading and writing,” said Dr. Hannah Szatkowski, assistant professor, in the department of leadership and teacher education and master's program coordinator. “As a result, we don’t adhere to a specific curriculum; rather, we make sure our students have extensive knowledge in how to effectively teach literacy.”
The National Council on Teacher Quality evaluated 693 traditional undergraduate and graduate programs across the country, including 18 in Alabama. Overall, just 112 programs earned an A and 48 earned an A+.