Teacher preparation program for literacy among nation’s best

JMU News

Harrisonburg, Virginia — The undergraduate teacher preparation program at James Madison University has been recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) as among the best in the nation in preparing future elementary teachers to teach children to read, earning an A+ distinction in NCTQ’s new report, “Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.” 

The program is among just 48 nationwide and five in Virginia highlighted by NCTQ for going above and beyond the standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction — often called the “science of reading.” 

National data shows that more than one-third of fourth-grade students — more than 1.3 million children — cannot read at a basic level. By preparing teachers in the methods that research has shown to work best, we can change these results. 

To evaluate the quality of preparation being provided, a team of experts at NCTQ analyzed syllabi, including lecture schedules and topics, background reading materials, class assessments, assignments, and opportunities to practice instruction in required literacy courses for undergraduate elementary teacher candidates at James Madison University. To earn an A+ distinction, programs needed to comfortably exceed NCTQ’s targets for coverage of the five core components of research-based reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

While some portion of children will learn to read naturally, more than five decades of research have established the components of explicit, research-based reading instruction that help most students become successful readers. Research suggests that teachers who understand the complex facets of literacy instruction and use instructional methods grounded in effective teaching practices can be successful in supporting young students’ reading development. James Madison University is proud to be recognized among the programs ensuring that future elementary teachers enter the classroom equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to help students become strong readers. 

“Literacy instruction is multi-faceted and complex, which is the essence of how our elementary education program prepares teacher candidates for success in diverse classroom settings,” said Dannette Allen-Bronaugh, interim department head.

The JMU elementary program seeks to foster in its candidates an empathic understanding of the ways that children are affected by social contexts and by the children’s own abilities; the knowledge and pedagogical skills to support each child's right to success; and belief in the value of each child. 

“The James Madison University program serves as a proof point,” said Heather Peske, NCTQ President. “Other teacher preparation leaders and faculty across the country must take note. There are programs that are doing this right, ensuring that their elementary teacher candidates get the preparation in how to teach reading that they both want and deserve.” 

The new NCTQ analysis of teacher preparation programs’ coverage of the science of reading was developed over the course of two years, involving teams of literacy experts, researchers, teacher preparation leaders, and educators. NCTQ evaluated 693 traditional undergraduate and graduate programs across the country, including 24 in Virginia. Overall, just 23% of programs earned an A or A+ grade (112 programs earned an A and 48 earned an A+). 

“The JMU Elementary Education program is no doubt a leader in literacy instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia, as attested by our program completers, superintendents and principals,” said Mark L’Esperance, dean of the College of Education. 

See the NCTQ report for more information about James Madison University’s approach to literacy instruction and to see how James Madison University compares to other programs in Virginia or across the country. 

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Contact: Mary-Hope Vass, vassmg@jmu.edu

More information about James Madison University, including rankings and recognitions can be found at jmu.edu/about

About NCTQ

The National Council on Teacher Quality: NCTQ is a nonpartisan research and policy organization on a mission to ensure every child has access to an effective teacher and every teacher has the opportunity to be effective. We believe a strong, diverse teacher workforce is critical for providing all students with equitable educational opportunities. For more information about NCTQ, visit www.nctq.org.

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Published: Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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