Jackson State, Southern Miss and Mississippi State were noted as exemplary for their reading teacher prep programs.
In a new report titled Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recognized Mississippi and Colorado as the top two states for ensuring scientifically based reading instruction in their teacher preparation programs.
“While individual preparation programs can improve the outcomes for their enrolled candidates, states hold the power to institute improvements to reading instruction and teacher preparation on a statewide scale,” the NCTQ report states. “Several states have already taken this step, showing what is possible. Mississippi and Colorado stand out for high scores for their teacher prep programs and minimal existence of practices contrary to scientifically based reading instruction.”
The NCTQ report said that the strong results by Mississippi and Colorado should come as no surprise given the investments and attention the states have given in recent years to promoting scientifically based reading instruction, including developing robust and specific teacher preparation standards and accountability, requiring a strong reading licensure test addressing all five components, and offering supports for teacher preparation programs to make the transition to scientifically based reading preparation.
Mike Kent, Interim Mississippi State Superintendent of Education, said the NCTQ report validates Mississippi’s commitment to equipping all elementary teachers to teach reading effectively.
“Mississippi students are more proficient readers because they have effective, dedicated teachers who teach the science of reading,” Kent noted.
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) said that the state’s investments in teacher preparation and professional development for educators has helped make Mississippi a national leader for improving student outcomes.
The report explained that Mississippi’s status as a top state in the NCTQ review is evidence that dedication to teacher preparation is achieving results for students. Between 2013 and 2019, Mississippi saw fourth grade NAEP scores rise dramatically, including for historically marginalized groups such as Black and Hispanic students.
“Even after the pandemic, Mississippi maintained its gains in reading in 2022, while many other states declined,” the report continued. “By partnering with teacher prep, setting accountability mechanisms in policy, and providing the necessary support for professional learning, Mississippi continues to be successful.”
Here is the NCTQ write-up on Mississippi’s dedication to teacher preparation:
The case of Mississippi’s systematic reading transformation is well documented. Often overlooked, however, is the state’s inclusion of teacher preparation early on in its efforts. As part of landmark legislation in 2013, the state provided professional development training via Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) to elementary teachers and leaders, as well as included faculty from institutes of higher education on a voluntary basis, to begin to create a common language across the entire education system.
While Mississippi had long required multiple reading courses in elementary teacher preparation programs, there was misalignment between the content taught in the course and the core components of scientifically based reading instruction. In 2015, Mississippi conducted an in-depth review of 15 prep programs, in partnership with Barksdale Reading Institute; these programs voluntarily participated to assess their alignment to scientifically based reading instruction and provide a better understanding of programs’ strengths and areas in need of growth related to scientifically based reading instruction.
Based on this study, the state set up strong accountability and support mechanisms to help bring programs into alignment. In 2016, the state began requiring the Foundations of Reading test for all elementary teachers to earn a license, which also provided a common indicator across all programs of whether teacher candidates were obtaining the knowledge and skill they need to teach scientifically based reading instruction. Later, the state factored this data into more frequent program reviews, including annual reports on the percentage of candidates who passed the reading test by number of attempts. Beginning in 2018, the state, with philanthropic support, provided intense professional learning and support to faculty in prep programs. This support included on-site training modules, texts, and other instructional videos; classroom instruction; one-on-one mentoring; and seminars. Most importantly, the state department of education studied the impact of the professional learning partnership in order to understand continued areas of needed support and to celebrate successes.
To support sustainability, Mississippi redesigned educator prep program guidelines and program approval requirements to prescribe the 15 credit hours dedicated to literacy, and required the two courses—Early Literacy 1 and Early Literacy 2—to align with syllabi from the Mississippi Higher Education Literacy Council matrix, which also includes an emphasis on dyslexia and English language learners. Additionally, a third course, Fundamentals of Reading in the Upper Elementary Grades, is also required.
Mississippi’s status as a top state in the NCTQ review is evidence that this dedication to teacher preparation is achieving results for students: Between 2013 and 2019, the state saw fourth grade NAEP scores rise dramatically, including for historically marginalized groups such as Black and Hispanic students. Even after the pandemic, Mississippi maintained its gains in reading in 2022, while many other states declined.34 By partnering with teacher prep, setting accountability mechanisms in policy, and providing the necessary support for professional learning, Mississippi continues to be successful.
As for teacher prep at state universities, three in-state colleges earned exemplary program status in the NCTQ review: Jackson State University, Southern Miss, and Mississippi State. NCTQ noted that the teacher prep programs at these three schools serve as great examples from which others can learn.