Elevate Teacher Preparation Standards to Safeguard Children's Literacy

Dec 6, 2023 3:45:03 PM


In a critical examination of our education system, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) revealed a disconcerting reality that demands immediate attention: the precarious state of our children's literacy future due to inadequate teacher preparation.

The root cause of teacher ineffectiveness starts before they accept their first teaching job.

NCTQ found that 29 states and the District of Columbia use weak licensure tests, potentially providing false assurance to nearly 100,000 educators nationwide on their educator proficiency and their ability to plan and execute instruction effectively.

One issue that has been in the spotlight is literacy. The science of reading is the body of research from several disciplines that have identified research-based strategies and findings on how we learn to read. Effective literacy instruction emphasizes systematic, explicit instruction in the five core components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Research shows that students who cannot read proficiently by fourth grade are at an increased risk of not graduating from high school. We must ensure preschool through third-grade teachers can develop students’ literacy skills.

Often, schools deprioritize lower grade levels, and elementary principals will shift ineffective elementary teachers in the upper elementary grades down to the lower elementary grades. The truth is that no grade level is appropriate for an ineffective teacher.

A deficit in literacy can hinder a child's ability to communicate effectively, engage with the world critically, and pursue higher education and career opportunities. The repercussions of inadequate teacher preparation reach beyond their immediate educational environment; they echo through a child's life.

According to NCTQ's research, “Only 28% of programs adequately address all five core components of reading instruction.” “Nearly 40% of programs are still teaching multiple practices contrary to the research that can impede student learning.”

The findings from the NCTQ report underscore the urgent need for reform and ignite stakeholders to advocate for change.

  • Universities must use research-based strategies to teach literacy
  • Teacher licensing programs implement rigorous cut scores for approving teaching licenses
  • Schools should remove curricula and literary resources that aren’t backed by research and have a transparent process listed on the school website for curriculum adoption.

The alarming trend of inadequate teacher preparation spurred on by weak licensure tests carries far-reaching implications; it directly jeopardizes the literacy development of millions of students. The foundation of a child's education rests upon the proficiency of their educators. We must demand higher standards for those entrusted with nurturing young minds and igniting a passion for reading.


Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta (Shawn-tay) S. Barnes, also known as Educator Barnes, is a married mother of identical twin boys. She navigates education from not only the educator’s perspective but also the parent’s perspective. She has been an educator for nearly two decades. Shawnta works with K-12 schools, universities, & education adjacent organizations through her education consulting business Blazing Brilliance. She is an adjunct college professor, supervises student teachers, Indy Kids Winning Editor-in-Chief, Brave Brothers Books Co-founder, & CEO, and Brazen Education Podcast host. She holds five education licenses: English/language arts 5-12, English to speakers of other languages P-12, library/media P-12, reading P-12, and school administration P-12, and she has held a job in every licensed area. Previously, she has served as a school administrator, English teacher, English learners teacher, literacy coach, and librarian. She won the 2019 Indiana Black Expo Excellence in Education Journalism Award. In 2023, she completed her doctorate in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education with a minor in Learning Sciences. She is an urban gardener in her spare time and writes about her harvest-to-table journey at gardenershicole.com. To learn more about Shawnta, visit educatorbarnes.com.

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