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Charlotte Leader In NC In Training Teachers To Teach Children To Read


UNC Charlotte is the statewide leader in training teachers to teach children to read, according to a recent independent report requested by the North Carolina Board of Governors. In a review of the 15 state institutions that train teachers for the state’s schools, only UNC Charlotte received a rating of “Strong” on a four-point scale that included ratings of “Strong”, “Good”, “Needs Improvement” and “Inadequate.”

The review was led by Teacher Prep Inspection-US in accordance with the North Carolina Literacy Review Framework. In rating programs’ trainings of literacy instruction, TPI-US considered course syllabi and schedules, assignments, assessments, online modules, video observations of course instruction and instructor interviews. The Cato College of Education offers seven undergraduate courses focusing on early literacy, significantly more than most universities offer.

In addition to receiving the highest rating in literacy instruction, the college was the lone program in North Carolina to earn a rating of “Strong” in training future educators to teach writing. Two others earned a score of “Good”, in writing instruction and the remaining 12 were evenly divided between “Needs Improvement” and “Inadequate”.

A 2016 national survey of elementary teachers found that the group collectively felt underprepared to teach writing based on their college training, with 76% reporting they received minimal to no preparation in teaching writing in their college education courses.

At UNC Charlotte, students in the general and adapted curriculum special education programs and those earning dual licensure in elementary and special education take a course rooted in exclusively on evidence-based practices for writing instruction, and the college’s special education writing course was noted as “exemplary” in the TPI-US report.

Erin Fitzpatrick researches and teaches the type of self-regulated strategy development that student-teacher Caitlin McGennis used with her class at Berewick Elementary.

Following the release of the report commissioned by the Board of Governors, the UNC System has looked to UNC Charlotte for leadership in literacy instruction. The Cato College of Education has consulted on best practices and provided web training for the other UNC System education schools.

Paola Pilonieta, an associate professor and program director of the reading education minor, was one of eight experts selected by the governor to serve as a Literacy Fellow and develop a set of guiding principles for teacher preparation that reflect current research on literacy development and instruction.

“The Literacy Framework was one of the first major steps North Carolina took as it aligned its policies and agencies with the Science of Reading. It provided Teacher Education Programs with clear guidelines for the content that should be included in literacy coursework to graduate teacher candidates who are ready to positively impact students’ reading achievement throughout the state.”

In the Cato College class “Teaching Reading to Intermediate Learners,” taught by Pilonieta, students are learning to teach vocabulary and comprehension to K-6 students. In the photo below, they’re focused on vocabulary; specifically on identifying words that are appropriate for instruction.

“Build the concept. Put a world around the word. That’s how they’ll learn it.” Pilionieta explained.

In breakouts from the full-class discussion based on the day’s lesson, tables of University education majors huddle in smaller groups.

“I remember a lot of flashcards,” one student says, leading Pilonieta to extrapolate on the difference between memorization and understanding, and how understanding that distinction is crucial for great literacy instructors.

It’s this combination of deepening content knowledge through instruction and intentional experiences in schools that students say helps them grow. 

“I feel very different from how I felt at the beginning of my education major. This program and the clinical experiences have made me much surer of my path and future as an elementary teacher. I have become significantly more confident in my teaching abilities,” said Cato College student Addison Pollard.

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