By Elaine Cheesman, Ph.D.
Q: Why did you participate in the IDA review process?
A: For many years, our teacher education programs have been reviewed and accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP, formerly NCATE, or National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education). Wouldn’t that accreditation be sufficient? Truth be told, the standards used to review the content are very broad and do not really provide the specific, research-based guidance outlined in The IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (2010). It is not surprising that the evidence suggests that there is no appreciative difference between teacher preparation programs with and without NCATE accreditation. Conversely, the IDA standards provide a comprehensive framework for teacher education in literacy instruction. To successfully meet these standards means that the reviewed programs are, in fact, preparing teachers to help all children learn to read and write. For our school, this finding was supported by the recent National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report—our programs for struggling readers received the coveted four-star rating. I believe that adhering to the IDA Standards helped us achieve that rating.
Q: How was the experience of preparing for and participating in the review?
A: Preparing for the review was not that difficult because our reading and assessment courses have been grounded in evidence-based for many years. I did explicitly link the course content to the IDA Standards, but that was an effective way to assure that we did not inadvertently omit something. Participating in the review was a real pleasure, actually! The reviewers were fair and thorough. I never felt that I was on the spot as with state accreditation or CAEP reviews.
A: Our university proudly displays the IDA logo on our website. As a result of the recognition status on the IDA website, we received over two dozen calls from prospective students. To accommodate interest from out-of-state students, I am developing a program that combines summer sessions (in beautiful Colorado!) with distance learning during the school year. Our students and graduates, though, are even more proud of this recognition! The IDA recognition is now an important part of their portfolios and job interviews. Graduates and school administrators alike have commented that IDA Recognition sets these candidates apart from applicants who graduated from non-recognized programs.
Q: Describe some of the innovative ideas you have implemented to give students a richer practicum experience.
A: My core reading course is a two-semester sequential course. In each class, students create seven mini lessons on each of the five components of reading, plus spelling and composition. They present these weekly lessons in small group practica sessions. Students from the second term mentor student presentations in the first term class. They evaluate the content and delivery using an evaluation form. This format is very well received. The first term students get advice from the second term students, and the second term students get a second opportunity to refine basic material. They consistently express how valuable that is, both in terms of refining their knowledge and practice, but also in terms of boosting their confidence. “I really understand the material so much better having heard it a second time around!” is a comment I hear frequently.
Q: How has your program leveraged outside partnerships to increase students’ learning experience?
A: For teachers in our Dyslexia Specialist program, we partner with HillSprings Learning Center, a non-profit school for students with learning disabilities. This school does the lion’s share of the work with our summer training program and practicum with K-12 students. This school is also accredited by the International Multisensory Language Education Council (IMSLEC), which gives our students another accreditation on their resumes.
Dr. Cheesman is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The courses she developed are among the nine university programs officially recognized by the International Dyslexia Association for meeting the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.
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