On Teachers and Teaching

When I attended the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference this summer, I heard an informative talk by Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Based in Washington, D.C., the NCTQ “advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers.”

Kate had a lot of interesting things to say about how teachers are not being prepared to teach reading in a way that aligns with “the science of reading,” such as research-based practices and an “explicit, systematic approach” to reading instruction. An earlier NCTQ report, What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning, explains, “Over the last 60 years, scientists from many fields including psychology, linguistics, pediatrics, education, neurobiology, and even engineering have been studying the reading process. This science of reading has led to a number of breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults. By routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings to the classroom, most reading failure could be avoided.”

In a subsequent exchange, Kate invited Lexercise to visit and share materials offered in the NCTQ newsletter and on PDQ, the NCTQ blog. Several weeks ago, Kate posted a blog entry, Loving children is not enough, in which she notes the generally low admission requirements for teacher education programs and the increasing public sentiment (as shown in a new PDK/Gallup Poll) for “more rigorous entrance requirements for teacher preparation.”

A couple of days later, NCTQ published another post in which teachers reflect upon What we wish we had known. While this post is entirely subjective, it suggests some of the shortcomings of training and the range of challenges met by teachers on their first day in the classroom. Significantly, the first comment comes from teacher Sandi Jacobs, who begins, “I wish I had known how to help kids learn how to read.” The next comment, from Katie Moyers, begins, “I wish I’d known more about how to diagnose and then address early literacy and basic math needs.”

In May, NCTQ issued What Teacher Preparation Programs Teach About K-12 Assessment, a report co-authored by Julie Greenberg and Kate Walsh. It emphasizes the importance of teachers learning to interpret student performance data on all kinds of assessments and examines the success of teacher training programs in readying teachers to do so.

While we know that classroom teachers are not trained or qualified to diagnose language-processing disorders such as dyslexia, they are often the first ones to notice when a child struggles to read, write or spell. The more skilled a teacher is at teaching reading, the more sensitive she or he will be to the problems encountered by reading-challenged children, and, we would hope, the more eager to find effective intervention.

If your child has difficulty reading, writing or spelling, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact me directly at AskSandie@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.