Nicholls Named Top Teacher Prep Program for Early Reading Instruction

(Photo by Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recognized the Nicholls State University Department of Teacher Education as one of the top programs in the country for its strong commitment to evidence-based reading instruction. 

A nonprofit research and policy organization, the NCTQ released its 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction report today. The report found significant progress on the science of reading instruction in teacher preparation. 

Nicholls is one of 15 undergraduate programs and the only in Louisiana to earn an A+ for exemplary coursework. 

“We are proud to earn an A+ rating on our early reading instruction in our elementary education program,” said Dr. Alyson Theriot, teacher education department head. “I feel that we are able to prepare our teacher candidates to teach reading by providing high-quality instruction here on our campus and allowing them to practice what they learn in mentor teachers’ classrooms in our partner school districts. It is a joint effort between our department and the P-12 schools.”

The NCTQ stated that Nicholls covers the five essential components of reading – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension – with: 

  • explicit and repeated instruction on each component
  • support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices
  • opportunities for teacher candidates to demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests and other instructional practice. 

The latest findings are a positive sign for the nationwide movement to bring down the high rates of illiteracy. For the first time since NCTQ began publishing ratings in the 2013 Teacher Prep Review, 51 percent of the over 1,000 evaluated traditional elementary teacher preparation programs earn an A or B grade for their coverage of the key components of the science of reading, up from just 35 percent seven years ago. 

Each year, more than one million public school students arriving in the fourth grade are added to the nation’s ranks of nonreaders. Two-thirds are black and Hispanic children struggling in the face of an inequitable education system. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, making successful reading instruction essential to achieving educational equity.

“If a child is not reading at grade level, that child will struggle in every subject,” said Dr. Sue Westbrook, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. “This honor showcases the positive impact our teachers are having on the Bayou Region. I would like to thank the Department of Teacher Education for all they do for the children and citizens in our community.”  

Now in its fourth edition, the Teacher Prep Review assigns a team of literacy experts to examine every course a program requires in early reading, looking at the planned topics to be covered in each class, readings, assignments, practice opportunities, and tests, as well as rating the quality of the textbooks used in each course. These experts look for clear evidence of dedicated course time as well as measures where aspiring teachers must demonstrate their knowledge of the five key components of the science of reading. All programs receive their preliminary grades well in advance of publication with an opportunity to appeal their rating and are invited to submit additional evidence for consideration.


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