Radical changes are needed in teacher education and professional development programs to prepare educators to attend to students’ literacy needs throughout grades K-12, the latest in a series of books from the National Academy of Education concludes.
The 304-page book outlines recommendations for infusing preservice programs with essential literacy content and strategies. It also encourages a view of teacher education that evolves throughout educators’ careers and that pairs skilled educators with novice ones.
“Ninety-nine percent of the teachers in middle schools and high schools are prepared to teach in their content area, not to teach comprehension in their content area,” said Catherine E. Snow, an influential reading researcher at Harvard University who chaired the panel that wrote the book.
Preservice programs should incorporate more content on reading development and instructional needs for students throughout the grades, and include methods of assessing students’ reading development and identifying potential problems, says the book, Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading: Preparing Teachers for a Changing World, edited by Ms. Snow, Peg Griffin, and M. Susan Burns.
“Teacher educators must start working the way excellent teachers work, by imposing on their own profession a recurrent cycle of learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection,” the book states.
The group that produced the book, the NAE’s reading subcommittee, is part of the organization’s committee on teacher education, a panel of experts which has been working for more than a year to outline a core knowledge base for teachers. The committee on teacher education has placed special emphasis on helping teachers understand and address children’s changing literacy needs, particularly in middle and high schools.
That message echoes the growing concerns among policymakers and experts in the field that—after a decade of intensive state and federal initiatives aimed at improving reading instruction in the early grades—more attention should be focused on how to build comprehension skills among older students.
The National Academy of Education, an invitation-only group made up of the field’s most distinguished academics, acknowledges that there is inadequate research to determine the best approaches to teacher education in the area of reading, but claims there is enough information on effective strategies and methods that can be put into practice.