State orders CU Denver to set reading classes

The University of Colorado at Denver must change the way it trains future teachers to teach reading before it can gain full state approval for four majors in the university’s teacher preparation program. .

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the State Board of Education granted partial approval to the primary education, special education, early childhood education and reading instruction programs in the ‘university. These majors, which enroll approximately 220 students, will undergo follow-up reviews in early 2023 to ensure state-mandated improvements have been made. The other 16 majors in the university’s teacher preparation program, including early childhood special education, have been fully approved.

Tuesday’s decision is part of an ongoing state effort to hold Colorado’s teacher preparation programs accountable for properly training future educators to teach reading. The state began cracking down on teacher preparation programs — specifically their approach to teaching reading — in 2018 as part of a broader campaign by lawmakers, education officials in the State and parents of dyslexic children to encourage more students to read at school level.

The decision to grant partial approval to four majors won’t prevent the university from enrolling students or graduates from those programs, but it does mean state officials are concerned. It also gives the state the ability to do a quicker follow-up check, because reviews normally take place every five years for programs that get full approval.

In recent years, the state has also ordered revisions to reading courses at the University of Northern Colorado, Denver Metropolitan State University and Regis University.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs gained full approval for all teacher prep majors on Tuesday. It is the third traditional prep program to gain full first-time approval after a state evaluation of reading lessons. The other two are Adams State University and Fort Lewis College.

State examiners found that applicants to the University of Colorado Denver’s teacher preparation program believed that only some late students needed phonics, and the subject was often not taught by teachers. Additionally, examiners found that teacher candidates and recent graduates could not list the signs of dyslexia or name the five essential components of reading, which are phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. .

This was not the case for the university’s early childhood special education majors, who state officials said had a solid understanding of the science of reading, teaching techniques fundamentals and dyslexia. About forty students are enrolled in this program.

In an interview with Chalkbeat on Monday, Barbara Seidl, associate dean for teacher education and undergraduate experiences at the University of Colorado at Denver, pointed out that faculty members have made a number of revisions to courses in reading since receiving the state reauthorization report a few months ago. She said these changes will be in place for all reading classes offered in the fall semester, which begins next week.

A head of the state’s education department acknowledged that the university is “already making good progress in addressing some of the concerns.”

Even so, the reauthorization report, which is partly based on campus visits by state examiners last spring, does not paint a complementary picture of the majors in question.

He cites a range of shortcomings, including textbooks that present demystified strategies and conflicting information and courses that omit key concepts about the science of reading and the state’s reading law, the READ Act.

“The faculty said, ‘There is no one right way to teach reading.’ They said there are varied perspectives and different sciences,” according to the report.

The “science of reading” refers to a large body of research on how children learn to read. One of the key findings is that teaching phonics – the relationship between letters and sounds – in a direct and systematic way helps develop proficient readers.

“We never resisted aligning with the science of reading,” Seidl said.

She noted that faculty members have made changes to reading courses over the past three years in an effort to meet state standards and that most courses do not refer to outdated approaches, such as than balanced literacy.

“Whatever remnants might have existed in certain yards, that’s what they were, remnants,” she said.

State board members barely commented on the reviewers’ report at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Joyce Rankin, one of the most vocal members on the need for reading-related changes in teacher preparation programs, simply said, “Four out of five isn’t good.

She was referring to the fact that of the five majors that include courses on teaching reading at the University of Colorado at Denver, only early childhood special education has received full state approval.

The State Council will likely have its next chance to decide whether the four partially approved majors comply with state requirements sometime next summer.

The University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University are among the next group of planned teacher preparation programs for state exams. Those assessments will take place this fall, with State Board votes on the results likely in the winter or spring.

Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, covering early childhood issues and early literacy. Contact Anne at aschimke@chalkbeat.org.

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