URI programs earn an ‘A’ for preparing future teachers in the science of reading

New report from the National Council on Teacher Quality finds URI undergraduate and graduate programs among top in U.S.

Kingston, R.I—June 13, 2023—The University of Rhode Island’s undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs have been recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for their rigorous preparation of future educators in how to teach reading, earning an “A” grade in NCTQ’s new report, Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.

The programs are among just 23% nationwide to earn an “A” from NCTQ for meeting standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction—often called the “science of reading.” 

“Early literacy development is crucial to children’s long-term academic success. Teachers with deep knowledge of literacy practices are best able to meet the varying needs of the children in their classrooms,” said Danielle Dennis, dean of URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies. Dennis is also a professor of literacy studies and serves on the board of the International Literacy Association.

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

“Our faculty excel at preparing elementary teacher candidates with the knowledge they need to teach developing readers. Our literacy coursework is comprehensive and practice-based, so not only do our candidates learn the concepts but they have the opportunity to apply them in a classroom setting under the guidance of experienced educators,” Dennis says of URI’s programs. In addition to its programs being named among the best in the country by NCTQ, URI’s School of Education last year earned full, seven-year accreditation from the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation.

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 and graduate elementary teacher candidates at the University of Rhode Island. To earn an “A,” programs needed to meet NCTQ’s targets for coverage of the five core components of scientifically based reading instruction—phonemic awarenessphonicsfluencyvocabulary, and comprehension—and not teach more than three instructional methods that are unsupported by the research on effective reading instruction. 

While some portion of children will learn to read naturally, over five decades of research have established the components of explicit, scientifically based reading instruction that help most students become successful readers. Research suggests that over 90% of children could learn to read if their teachers used instructional methods grounded in the science of reading. Dennis noted it is an honor for URI to be recognized among those programs ensuring future elementary teachers enter the classroom equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to help students become strong readers.

URI’s Elementary Education Program is a fully accredited certification program which prepares undergraduate students to teach children in grades 1-6. Students gain a broad education in the liberal arts and sciences, an understanding of learners and how they develop as well as the skills to address the needs of all types of learners.

“Teacher preparation programs are structured to provide a gradual buildup of responsibilities and experiences for teacher candidates,” said Diana Marshall, director of URI’s Office of Teacher Education. “In student teaching, teacher candidates gradually take on responsibility for the full classroom, including managing the teaching and learning of the classroom for an extended amount of time, engaging with parents, and collaborating with colleagues.”

Marshall explained that teacher candidates are engaged in classrooms every semester of their teacher preparation programs. They are placed in as many as seven clinical placements throughout their teacher preparation program, depending on their program.

“Courses that include clinical placements are aligned with courses on campus so that teacher candidates are continually seeing what they are learning in their coursework in the classrooms,” Marshall said.

Students must pass their teacher certification exam before they can student teach. In addition to earning a B.A. in Elementary Education, students must select a second major. Second majors in biology, English, mathematics, history, or a foreign language are strongly encouraged.

URI’s Master of Arts in Education with Teacher Certification Program is designed for students who have already received an undergraduate degree in an area other than elementary or secondary education and want to obtain their teacher certification along with their master’s degree.

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 three in Rhode Island. Overall, just 112 programs earned an A and 48 earned an A+. 

See the NCTQ report for more information about the University of Rhode Island’s coverage of the science of reading and to see how URI compares to other programs in Rhode Island or across the country.

About the University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island is a competitive and highly regarded public institution in New England and beyond. Founded in 1892, the University of Rhode Island is the principal public flagship research and graduate institution in Rhode Island, with 14,500 undergraduate students and more than 2,250 graduate students across 203 academic programs. At URI, you will find some of today’s leading innovators, discoverers, and creative problem solvers. Visit uri.edu to learn more.

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