Update: As of 03/18/2021, UA’s program is one of only 18 in the country, and of only three in Ohio, to earn an A+ rating. UA is the only public school in Ohio with an A+ rating. See ratings here.

The University of Akron’s undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program is being recognized as one of the best in the nation, and the top in the state, for how it prepares educators to teach children reading, a new report shows.

In the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), UA is one of only 15 undergraduate elementary programs across the United States, and the only one in Ohio, to earn an A+ rating due to exemplary coursework in teaching literacy, and for serving as a model of excellence for others. NCTQ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and policy organization, for its strong commitment to evidence-based reading instruction.

A University of Akron student teacher in a classroom

Top-performing programs such as UA provide the following for each of the five essential components of reading:

  • Explicit and repeated instruction on each component of 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.

“This A+ rating from the National Council on Teacher Quality reflects decades of hard work by UA’s literacy faculty,” said Dr.Lisa Lenhart, professor of curricular and instructional studies and lead literacy faculty in the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education. “All teacher candidates in early childhood, middle-level and special education must take 12 semester hours in the teaching of reading during their studies, so having a strong reading core program matters significantly. The A+ rating, and being recognized nationally, is a testament to our dedication and commitment to academic excellence.”

This month NCTQ released its 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction, which finds significant progress on the science of reading instruction in teacher preparation. For the first time since NCTQ began publishing ratings in the 2013 Teacher Prep Review, 51% of the more than 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% seven years ago.

A University of Akron student teacher in a classroom

The latest findings are a positive sign for a newly energized movement across the nation to bring down notoriously high rates of illiteracy in the U.S. Each year, well over a million public school students arriving in the fourth grade are added to the nation’s ranks of nonreaders.

“The progress being made by programs comes as a real shot in the arm,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “The resistance to teaching what is scientifically based has been so formidable. The scale is now tipping in favor of science, and the real winners here are the students who will learn to read.”

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.

You can read the full NCTQ summary of findings online and see all top-performing programs.

Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or aknisely@uakron.edu.