In 2022, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) established a taskforce to begin work on a groundbreaking initiative to revamp reading instruction in Educator Prep Programs (EPPs) at NCICU institutions based on the science of reading.
The science of reading is a research-backed approach, focusing on fundamental reading skills such as phonics and explicit teaching methods which offer significant benefits to young students, particularly for struggling readers. By diving deep into the mechanics of how we learn to read, from the intricacies of brain science to effective teaching strategies, the science of reading promises to bring about a transformative shift in literacy rates.
To help research, develop, and implement support systems that assist faculty to fully align their college courses with the science of reading, the Goodnight Educational Foundation provided a two-year grant to NCICU. With those funds, subgrants were distributed to all 31 EPPs on NCICU campuses to redesign literacy courses and internships. Through their work over the past year and a half, all 31 EPPs have revised their courses and most of them have added new courses and learning experiences. Deans and faculty members came together this summer to report on their progress and share initiatives that have been implemented to date.
For example, one college used some of the subgrant funds to connect with local elementary schools, building a mobile tutoring lab that they took to those schools to aid struggling readers. Another created a series of intensive workshops with its local elementary schools to aid first grade students in phonological awareness, and to demonstrate how best to intervene with struggling readers. Another institution partnered with a local K-12 school which specializes in teaching kids with learning disabilities. Together, they developed a 10-hour asynchronous course that engages future teachers in a deep dive into content that will enable them to support readers with the challenge of breaking the alphabetic code.
“We recognize that reading and comprehension are keys to student achievement at all levels of education,” said NCICU president, Hope Williams, “and we are so impressed with the collaboration among EPPs and the innovative ideas they have developed and implemented for the Science of Reading curriculum at the 31 NCICU Educator Prep Programs.”
The NCICU Task Force has been developing a Faculty Teaching Toolkit, an online database that includes handouts, videos, and readings to help faculty across the state learn and teach the science of reading.
Through this new initiative, NCICU seeks to pave the way for a future where every student, regardless of their background or learning challenges, can become a confident, proficient reader. It is a bold move in education and a significant step towards enhanced literacy in North Carolina.