Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Teaching Teachers To Teach Reading: Outdated Methods?

Here's something that will not come as "news" to many practicing teachers:
Most U.S. undergraduate teacher-education programs give prospective teachers a poor foundation in reading instruction, according to a new study by a Washington-based non-profit group that is working to reform the nation's teacher-education system.

The report, released on Monday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, looked at coursework and textbooks used at 72 leading colleges of education and found that most use what the council considers outdated, discredited approaches to teaching reading — especially for underprivileged children.

Kate Walsh, who heads the council, says teachers' colleges and education reformers have "an enormous ideological difference about what they think is important to teach new teachers."

Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, says education schools are adopting new approaches, but such changes take time to affect what's taught to young teachers.

"The professional community does indeed see the need for change," she says. The new research "is in fact starting to influence the field." She says teachers' colleges haven't rejected the research, "but the community has to find a way to accept this work in a way they can use."

Monday's study finds that only 11 colleges currently teach teachers about all five so-called scientific components of reading, which dictate that students should learn reading through phonics, vocabulary and similar means.

Other approaches often require students to learn by memorizing key words and inferring the meaning of others through the context of a sentence.

Many educators have embraced the phonics approach, but many others — especially older teachers — say it offers children an incomplete picture of reading and leads to heavily scripted lessons. But Walsh says that if education schools embraced scientifically designed programs and rigorous teacher training, "there would be far less need for a scripted curriculum."
When I was taking my education courses at San Diego State, (I earned my Bachelor's from Florida State University.) I had one wholly ineffective course in the teaching of reading.

And that was during the era when the "Whole Language" approach was in full vogue. During that far-off time, words such as "phonics" and "grammar" were not only frowned upon but were absolutely forbidden and could get an educator into trouble.

I clearly recall back in '93 when a very good friend of mine was "written up" by a state auditor because he was "caught" teaching a traditional grammar lesson to a class of 7th grade GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students.

See the actual report from the National Council on Teacher Quality here and the report's executive summary over there.
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