To the Editor:
Re: Your article on the National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent study on the preparation of reading teachers (“Teacher Ed. Faulted on Reading Preparation,” June 7, 2006):
As a member of the National Reading Panel, on whose report the Reading First section of the No Child Left Behind Act was based, I never cease to be amazed and dismayed by the folklore that has grown up around that report. The central legend is that the panel scientifically determined that phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension are the five essential components of reading instruction.
The reality is that at its first meeting, the NRP selected nine topics for investigation because those topics were the major interests of the university researchers on the panel. Three months later, the panel identified 32 additional topics, but never got around to investigating any of them because of lack of time. Of the nine topics investigated, the panel determined that five showed enough positive results to be identified as effective teaching methods.
The latest offspring of the central legend is the study produced by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The NCTQ evaluated teacher preparation in reading at 72 colleges of education on the basis of whether or not the curriculum included the five components identified as effective by the National Reading Panel, calling these collectively the “science of reading.”
If either the NRP’s selection of topics or the NCTQ’s use of them as its sole criteria is science, I’ll eat my teaching license.
The views expressed by the writer, the president-elect of the Urbana, Ill.-based National Council of Teachers of English, are her own.
A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Teaching Panel Misstates ‘Science of Reading’