Barriers to the Preparation of Highly Qualified Teachers in Reading

Despite the fact that the early reading proficiency for all children has become a national mandate captured in both the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the poor performance of America’s fourth graders on national examinations of reading proficiency indicates that the nation is far from achieving that goal, especially for minority students. This is all the more disappointing given that advances in research now provide a scientific basis for reading instruction that promises to enable nearly all but the most severely handicapped students to become proficient readers by Grade 4.

Both NCLB and IDEA have invoked scientifically based reading research as the basis not only for mandating the adoption of scientifically based reading instruction but for related changes in education policy. Coupled with the emphasis in the federal legislation on putting “highly qualified” teachers who teach core content in all the nation’s classrooms, scientifically based reading research has become central to the requirement that all elementary and special education teachers be adequately prepared to teach reading. Presently, not only are far too few teachers proficient in scientifically based reading instruction, but far too many of the programs that prepare the nation’s teachers are failing to give them the grounding they need in order to become proficient.

The following three prominent points of impact are especially important in addressing this situation: 

  • Professional association standards, including program accreditation standards. 
  • State standards for program approval and teacher licensure. 
  • The teacher preparation curriculum in institutions of higher education or other teacher preparation venues.