Teachers need to know the foundations of reading

If teachers don't know what a reading disability looks like they can't help children overcome them

The Committee for Change, a sub-committee of the Learning Disabilities of Greater Baltimore, is working along with other educators and state lawmakers on legislation that would create a task force to study teacher training programs this session.

After years of research we know the nature, causes and treatment of 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 that "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 is a big void in teacher training standards, which have not been aligned with scientific research. 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 — it is not a curriculum so much as what an effective curriculum needs to be based on. Maryland requires no test of knowledge about the foundations of reading.

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

Barbara Donick

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