Averett University’s Undergraduate Teaching Program Recognized for Early Reading Preparation

Posted on January 28th, 2020 by Cassie Jones

New data and analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has ranked Averett University’s undergraduate elementary education degree program among the best in Virginia for early reading preparation – one of only six programs in the Commonwealth to receive the top grade.

The Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies (elementary education) with teaching licensure (PK-6) at Averett earned a grade of ‘A’ from the national organization’s “2020 Teacher Prep Review,” which grades teacher preparation programs across the nation. It found some programs, like Averett’s, making significant progress in preparing teachers to use the most effective methods when teaching kids how to read.

“Our team works diligently to ensure that our teacher candidates are ready to face the challenges that reading presents in a PK-6 setting,” said Dr. Nancy Riddell, chair of the Averett education program and director of teacher education. “I’m thrilled with the teamwork in our department, and excited that we received an ‘A’ in this particular area that can be so challenging.”

According to NCTQ, the latest national findings are a positive sign for newly energized movement across the nation to bring down notoriously high rates of illiteracy in the United States. Each year, well over a 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.

“Reading for the youngest students can be very challenging, as they come to school at so many different levels,” Riddell said. “The basis of reading and students being literate is very important in understanding all other subjects. If they can’t read well, they will likely have challenges processing and understanding the concepts presented in the other disciplines like science, math and social studies, for example.”

To help better prepare teacher candidates to meet this challenge and advance in this area of study,  Averett now offers an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) reading specialist degree program, in addition to four other M.Ed. degree tracks. Averett offers a traditional baccalaureate education program with preparation for licensure in almost 15 certifications, and consistently places close to 100% of graduates into teaching positions each year. The University also has relationships with eight school systems in the region, ensuring its students work alongside veteran teachers in the classroom as part of their training. Approximately 30% of teachers in the Dan River Region are Averett education alumni.

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: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. 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. For the NCTQ methodology, click here.