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Delta State University’s Elementary Education Program Ranks in the Top 15 in the Nation for Reading Instruction

The Elementary Education Program in the Division of Teacher Education, Leadership, and Research at Delta State University is one of only 15 undergraduate elementary programs out of more than 1,000 graded nationwide to earn an A+ in reading instruction for teacher candidates, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

“We are happy to recognize the strong preparation in reading instruction that your undergraduate program provides to your elementary teacher candidates,” NCTQ President Kate Walsh wrote in an email. The 15 programs like Delta State’s demonstrate “exemplary coursework” and “serve as models of excellence for others,” NCTQ materials point out.

“The teaching of reading is a very deliberate and complex experience; without attention to its science, it is diminished. Kudos to our faculty who recognize this and uphold the tradition,” said Dr. Merideth Van Namen, chair and associate professor of teacher education at DSU. “We’re thrilled but not surprised to be recognized,” she added. “Delta State has been at the vanguard of teacher education since being founded as Delta State Teachers College in 1924.”

Findings appear in NCTQ’s “2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction.” Assessment criteria include explicit and repeated instruction on each of the five scientifically based components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), “support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices,” and “opportunities for teacher candidates to demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests, and instructional practice,” per the report.

“Good results like these are typically the result of dedication and attention to what is truly important,” said Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences at Delta State. “Essentially, faculty are being recognized for continuing a long tradition of high quality reading/literacy instruction at this institution by honing their craft through professional development, by building into their responsibilities the study of research, and by taking this accumulated knowledge to the next levels of classroom instruction and clinical practice with their candidates.”

For the first time since NCTQ began publishing ratings in 2013, 51 percent of traditional elementary teacher preparation programs evaluated in the science of reading received an A or B, up from 35 percent seven years ago. This is important because more than one million public schoolchildren beginning fourth grade are added to the list of nonreaders in the U.S. each year, cites NCTQ. In addition to the 15 that made A+, another 32 scored A. Mississippi outperformed all other states.

NCTQ considers early reading the most important of the seven standards it applies to elementary programs. The other six are math, building knowledge, selection criteria, diverse recruitment, classroom management, and clinical practice. Results for those will be released in the spring and summer.