09:33 AM

College of Public Service Urban Education Earns an ‘A’

UHD Among Top in U.S. for Preparing Teachers in the ‘Science of Reading’


By Sheryl E. Taylor

When it comes to student literacy, the numbers are daunting. However, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is being recognized at a national level for its work in addressing student literacy. 

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) awarded UHD’s undergraduate teacher-preparation program, namely the Bachelor of Arts in Education - Core Subjects Early Childhood - Sixth Grade with ESL Supplemental Certification, for its rigorous preparation of future teachers in how to teach reading. The details are in NCTQ’s new report, Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.1. OFFICIAL LOGO_NCTQ Logo Full Size_PNG_Transparent

The program is among just 23% nationwide to earn an “A” from NCTQ for meeting standards set by literacy experts for coverage of the most effective methods of reading instruction—often called the “science of reading.”

“First, we are excited to receive recognition for the work we put into preparing teachers. Our Urban Education faculty have put a lot of time and effort into preparing our teacher candidates, in general, and teaching reading, specifically,” said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of the College of Public Service (CPS). “Second, we understand the importance of literacy and the need for the teachers we train to be prepared to make a difference. Our outstanding literacy faculty are working on teaching cutting-edge approaches to literacy. We also work closely with our partner school districts to make sure our teachers are day-one prepared to impact the students they teach.”

National data shows that more than one-third of fourth-grade students—over 1.3 million children—cannot read at a basic level. By preparing teachers in the methods that research has shown to work best, we can change these devastating results.

According to NAEP or the Nation’s Report Card: “Student literacy rates have fallen since the pandemic, with 37% of 4th-grade students nationwide scoring ‘Below Basic’ in reading, and even higher, unacceptable rates of reading failure for our most historically marginalized students.”

To counter these alarming rates, research has found that most children require explicit, systematic instruction grounded in the science of reading to become successful readers. In evaluating the quality of preparation being provided, a team of experts at NCTQ analyzed syllabi, including lecture schedules and topics, background reading materials, class assessments, assignments, and opportunities to practice instruction in required literacy courses for undergraduate elementary teacher candidates at UHD. To earn an “A,” programs needed to meet NCTQ’s targets for coverage of the five core components of scientifically based reading instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—and not teach more than three instructional methods that are unsupported by the research on effective reading instruction.

While some portion of children will learn to read naturally, more than five decades of research have established the components of explicit, scientifically based reading instruction that help most students become successful readers. Research suggests that over 90% of children could learn to read if their teachers used instructional methods grounded in the science of reading. UHD is proud to be recognized among the programs ensuring that future elementary teachers enter the classroom equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to help students become strong readers.

“Our literacy faculty stays up to date with the latest, most rigorous educational research to best prepare our pre-service teachers. One part of a well-rounded, fully rigorous, and authentic literacy instruction approach is reading instruction rooted in the National Reading Panel’s 2000 report, along with associated studies,” said Dr. Diane Miller, Associate Professor of Literacy in CPS’ Department of Urban Education. Miller noted that the Texas Education Agency began implementing a new certification exam, “The Science of Teaching Reading,” in the midst of the pandemic. 

“Assistant Professor of Urban Education Dr. Eve Zehavi, an early literacy specialist, was immediately responsive to this shift,” said Miller. “She attended multiple trainings and study sessions to ensure we were preparing our students well.”  Zehavi partnered with former CPS Associate Dean Dr. Laura Link and fellow literacy faculty member Miller to create asynchronous, stand-alone modules that enhance course-based literacy instruction.

In addition to preparing UHD students for the new certification exam with noteworthy success (approximately 95% of students have passed the exam), these modules have garnered international recognition. Zehavi and Miller will be sharing their experiences with the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices (S-STEP) International Biennial Conference, a special interest group of the American Educational Research Association, in England this summer.

NCTQ’s detailed program analysis is available, as is a brief overview of the NCTQ review process, in this two-minute video. The full details regarding the research and methodology behind the NCTQ review are available in the Reading Foundations Technical Report.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.