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National and Local Evidence of Reading Neglect and How YOU Can Fix It

by Robin Hansen
March 31, 2009

SF Special Education Examiner

Nationally known child psychologist Pam Wright put together a comprehensive list of outstanding links to information about the lack of preparation in reading instruction for many special education teachers.

She said, "It appears I’ve offended some teachers by the post and comments on “Fifth grader is reading at 2.7 grade level. Should he be tested for Special Ed?  ” http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=8

Before clarifying the purpose of that article, I have a question for you. If your child was in 5th grade and reading on the 2.7 grade level, wouldn’t you be alarmed? Wouldn’t you want a research based reading program that has a proven record of success before your child falls even further behind?

To clarify, the article is a critique of teacher education programs, not an attack on teachers.  When writing articles, we use research by respected organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers and The National Council on Teacher Quality. We recommend publications from these organizations to those who are interested in reading instruction and teacher preparation.
 
Here are some excellent publications and reports on teacher preparation and reading:

Teacher Education: Coming up Empty - Describes a study in which leading teacher educators admit that there’s little evidence to prove the effectiveness of teacher ed programs.

The National Council on Teacher Quality examined what aspiring teachers learn about reading instruction in college. NCTQ analyzed a representative sample of reading courses to assess the degree to which students are taught the five essential components of effective reading instruction (http://www.wrightslaw.com/nclb/4defs.reading.htm): phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Among their findings:

Most Education Schools Do Not Teach the Science of Reading.


Courses That Claim to Provide a “Balanced” Approach Ignore the Science of Reading.

Most Reading Instruction is Incompatible with the Science of Reading.
Teacher Educators Portray Science of Reading Instruction as One Approach that is No More Valid than Others (”Anything Goes”).
Reading Courses Reflect Low Expectations for Students, with Little Evidence of College-Level Work.
Quality of Most Reading Textbooks is Poor, Inaccurate and Misleading.

Conclusion:
Given the strength of the scientific research in reading instruction, there is genuine cause for concern … we will not be surprised to find that it took several decades for the science of reading to be absorbed into thinking and practice [that means] yet another generation of children have been deprived of the benefits of the science.

State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2007 - Progress on Teacher Quality: How the States are Faring http://www.nctq.org/stpy/

This Yearbook describes teacher quality and preparation by state. Primary findings are here.http://www.nctq.org/stpy/primaryFindings.jsp
Scroll down to #7 for findings about the preparation of special education teachers."
 
The report says:
 
"States do not ensure that special education teachers are well-prepared to teach students with disabilities.

States contribute to special education teacher shortages by providing too little guidance to teacher preparation programs and not taking steps to assist special education teachers in meeting highly qualified requirements.

  • State standards for the preparation of special education teachers are woefully inadequate. A mere 4 states have strong standards that are clear, explicit and comprehensive about what teachers should know in order to teach students with disabilities.
  • Few states require special education teachers to have subject-matter knowledge. States shortchange special education students by providing them with teachers who are not prepared to teach them content.
  • States are not requiring that teacher preparation programs assume any responsibility for ensuring that secondary special education teachers are highly qualified, leaving the task up to districts instead. Only 14 states require secondary special education teachers to graduate highly qualified in even one content area.
  • Unlike most other teachers, a HOUSSE route is needed for secondary special education teachers, so that they can achieve highly qualified status in all the subjects they teach. Not one state has a customized HOUSSE route for new secondary special education teachers.
  • States give teacher preparation programs free rein over the professional coursework they require special education candidates to take. Programs that require the equivalent of three majors of professional coursework may be a deterrent to those considering a career in special education."
The teachers have been short changed after working very hard, attending college for years and incurring student loans.  
 
 
Most parents never figure this out. It would never occure to them that the teacher may not be qualified.   Parents just think their kid isn't smart enough.  Eventually the kid will believe he is not smart enough either.  Some will act out.  Some will drop out.  Most will not be able to pass the High School Exit Exam(CAHSEE). If they start college, they will probably drop out.  The lucky ones will have parents who believe in their children. Some parents will take them out of the system and pay privately. Some will hire a tutor to help them keep up in school.  Parents who really understand their procedural rights to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) will hire an advocate or a lawyer just to get a basic education for their child. 
 
It is time give our special education teachers who need the proper training they need and the kids deserve. 
 
Right now, San Francisco Unified School District Special Education department* will be the recipient of almost 12 million dollars designated for special education and title 1 reading.  They are looking for parent input!  
 
Tell SFUSD that this money should be spent on intensive professional development to get our teachers up to speed on reading programs including Lindamood Bell, Orton Gillingham, Wilson and Slingerland methodologies.
 
Send your opinions to Karling Auilera Forte at Aguilera-FortK1@sfusd.edu and cc to SELPA director David Wax
at stimulus@sfusd.edu.  SFUSD's strategic plan is all about social justice.  Literacy = social justice!! 
 
* All school special education departments will be getting a big influx of funds, not just SFUSD

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