Public Comments to ISBE Board

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June 21, 2023
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Jessica Handy
(217) 415-9175, [email protected]

Literacy Advocates react to distressing report about educator prep program’ literacy training

Springfield – At the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE’s) board meeting, parents and teachers spoke out for program accountability in response to a startling national report that awarded a letter grade “F” to nine of fifteen Illinois educator preparation programs. Only one program – Olivet Nazarene – received an “A.”

“When future teachers invest their time and money earning a teaching license from a program ISBE has authorized, they should expect that program to at least meet ISBE’s literacy standards. Since we began organizing the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition over two years ago, we have heard this message over and over: teachers are shelling out their own money to improve their literacy training because they didn’t get what they needed in college,” said Katie Scullion, co-Chair of the Outreach Committee of the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition.

ISBE’s literacy standards for educator preparation programs are widely recognized as high-quality. Unfortunately, there remains a gaping disconnect between the standards and their implementation. Most programs did not provide the information necessary to analyze the depth of their coverage across five components of reading, inclusion of debunked methodology, and attention to English Learners and struggling readers.

“After a bachelor’s in English to teach grades 6-8, a master’s to be a reading specialist, and coursework to complete an LBS1 endorsement, not one of these areas of study adequately prepared me to teach anyone of any age to learn to read or write. Only my personal determination to figure out where we were failing to grow literate young adults propelled me to learn these essential skills,” said Christine Pederson, who now works privately and serves on the board of The Reading League Illinois.

“As future educators we depended on our teacher prep programs to introduce us to practices that align with reading research, but many of us, after years in the classroom, found that we were ill-equipped to help our students learn the foundational and fundamental skill of reading. Even after going back to get a graduate degree in reading instruction and a coaching certificate in literacy instruction, I continued to struggle to teach my students how to read,” said Elana Gordon, a reading interventionist from Cicero District 99.

“I have been the cooperating teacher for 3 preservice teachers in Illinois. All 3 student teachers came from different education programs across the state. Each collegiate program was a little different in its own way; however, not one of the universities taught these 3 student teachers the 5 core components of scientifically based reading. I can only hope this has changed,” said Heather Lara, a first grade teacher in Glenview.

Eight teachers, parents, and administrators across Illinois provided public comments at ISBE’s board meeting this morning, sharing powerful and vulnerable stories about their literacy training and the lengths they went through to fight for the skills to teach their students to be strong readers. We are glad to facilitate interviews with these individuals and any interested reporters.

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