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Key to reading success is teacher training

How do you improve student reading? Start by teaching the teacher

As an educator, I am very concerned about reading instruction in the state of Maryland. I am currently working with other educators and the Maryland legislature to introduce a bill in January creating a task force to study teacher preparation. We are asking Larry Hogan to support this bill as our new governor. In 2012, Gov. Scott Walker took the lead in Wisconsin to create a task force called Read to Lead, recognizing that there is no skill more important to future success than reading.

After many years of research, we have the knowledge of the nature, causes and treatments for reading difficulties. We also know that what the classroom teacher does has a significant impact on student outcomes. Louisa Moats, a nationally recognized expert in reading wrote, "If the classroom teacher does not know what a reading disability looks like, what causes it or what science says can be done about it, the affected students will languish and suffer. On the other hand, a well-trained and well-equipped teacher can make a huge difference to a student's eventual outcomes."

There has been a big void in the world of teacher training standards that have not been aligned with scientific research and which are not rigorous and measurable. In 2012, the American Federation of Teachers called for a "more rigorous threshold to ensure that every teacher is actually ready to teach. All prospective teachers should meet a universal and rigorous bar that gauges mastery of subject matter knowledge and demonstrates competency." The foundation of knowledge in reading is comparable to teaching anatomy to medical students so that they can better practice medicine. It is not a curriculum, but it is what a curriculum needs to be based on. Maryland requires no test of knowledge of the foundations of reading.

We need a task force to study this critical issue and make recommendations so that Maryland can reach the goal of ensuring that every child can read.

Barbara Donick, Baltimore

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