IDA Takes Bold Steps to Improve the Knowledge and Practice of Teachers of Reading in Classrooms Across the United States

Share This:

August 2014

By Suzanne Carreker, Ph.D.

As current Chair and previous member of IDA’s Professional Development Committee, Dr. Suzanne Carreker helped to create IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (KPS).  We asked Dr. Carreker questions about the following:

  • IDA’s process and rationale for creation of the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading
  • IDA’s goals for use of the KPS as a framework for course content in university-based teacher training programs that prepare teachers of reading
  • IDA’s process and rationale for shifting from use of the term recognition of these university-based teacher training programs to accreditation
  • IDA’s plans for creation of a certification exam and certification of individuals who teach reading
  • How credentialing relates to IDA’s process for reviewing university programs for accreditation and reviewing qualifications of individuals for certification.

Q: What was IDA’s rationale for creating the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading?

A: Research has demonstrated that when reading is taught by highly knowledgeable and skilled teachers of reading, all but the most severe reading difficulties can be resolved or, at the very least, greatly ameliorated. The question is, “What is meant by highly knowledgeable and skilled?”

Included in the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading is an outline of the knowledge and skills needed to teach students to read well, whether teaching in the general education classroom, in an intervention setting, or in a remedial or clinical situation. Section I of the IDA standards addresses the domains that should be well understood by a highly knowledgeable teacher of reading. These domains include foundation concepts, knowledge of language structure, knowledge of dyslexia and other learning disorders, administration and interpretation of assessments, the principles of structured language instruction, and ethical standards for the profession. Section IIaddresses the skills a highly skilled teacher of reading must demonstrate in a supervised practicum. In short, the IDAKnowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading define the highly knowledgeable and skilled teacher of reading.

In addition to defining the quintessential teacher of reading, the IDA standards serve as the metric to measure the quality of programs that prepare teachers of reading. Ultimately, these standards will determine whether a teacher has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to teach reading well. That determination will be based on satisfactory completion of coursework, successful completion of a supervised practicum, and demonstration of competency on a certification exam—all of which are based on the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.

One of IDA’s goals has been to work with an international credentialing organization (e.g., ANSI––American National Standards Institute, or ICE––Institute for Credentialing Excellence) to complete the required steps to establish the IDA standards as the “Gold Standard for Reading Instruction.”

Q: What was IDA’s process for creating the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading ?

A: A team of six educators and researchers with deep knowledge of the body of research related to teaching reading and extensive experience in providing Structured Literacy instruction to teachers and students developed IDA’sKnowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. Louisa Moats, the primary author, provided an outline of the knowledge domains and the application of the domains that would demonstrate the knowledge necessary for teaching reading well. Through a series of reviews and discussions, the domains and the applications of the domains were revised. A narrative summarizing each domain and references to supporting literature were added. Section II was written to emphasize that knowledge alone is not sufficient to ensure that teachers will succeed in teaching students with dyslexia or other severe reading difficulties to read. The framework that defines both the knowledgeable and the skilled teacher of reading is the combination of the two sections.

Without altering the standards themselves, the introduction to the standards and the narratives for each domain are being customized for use by general educators and administrators. Additionally, IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading have gone global. IDA’s Global Partners will be using the standards to develop teacher preparation programs around the world. The introduction and the narratives will be customized for various audiences. Recently, the standards were translated into Spanish.

Q: A major goal in publishing the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading in 2010 was to use them as a framework for course content in university-based teacher training programs that prepare teachers of reading. The first round of university reviews in 2012 resulted in IDA’s recognition of nine university programs. The second round of university reviews in 2014 resulted in IDA’s accreditation of eight additional university programs.

  • What was the process and rationale for initially choosing the term recognition?
  • What was the process and rationale for changing the term from recognition to accreditation?

A: IDA is embarking on a campaign to change the way reading is taught across the US. To do this, we must change the way prospective teachers are prepared to teach reading in our colleges and universities. For the initial venture into examining university programs, IDA sought universities that demonstrated alignment with the standards. The reviews were done on a gratis basis. For round two, universities requested reviews, completed a self-study, and paid a fee.

The peer-review aspect of the university reviews is critical to the integrity of the process and the quality of the programs under review. High-quality programs will advance the field of reading instruction. Three reading experts are assigned to each university program review. These experts interview the program directors and engage in a careful and thorough perusal of syllabi, lectures, textbooks, other required readings, assignments, quizzes, and exams to ensure that the course content is aligned with the IDA standards. At the end of the review, a written report that delineates the strengths of each program, as well as any deficiencies and areas that need improvement, is sent to each program director along with the final accreditation decision. A subcommittee of the Professional Development Committee determines a program’s eligibility for accreditation.

The review process has been and will continue to be an evolving process. As IDA has learned more about best practices in accreditation, those new findings have been incorporated into the process. After each round, the reviewers debrief and offer suggestions to make the process as effective and efficient as possible. In the first two rounds, for example, a site visit was conducted on an as-needed basis. Moving forward, a site visit is now a requirement of the review process for program accreditation.

Initially, the terms recognized and recognition were used because IDA’s review process was in the beginning stages, and IDA wanted to be respectful of other organizations that had a long history of accrediting training courses and training programs. After the first round, several universities requested that IDA use the terms accredited and accreditation. IDA’s desire to respond to these requests and to conform to best practices precipitated a meeting with a consultant. The consultant affirmed that IDA’s rigorous review process meets best practices in the field of accreditation and that it is appropriate for IDA to use the term accreditation. IDA considers all seventeen university programs that have been reviewed and approved to be accredited and the review process used to be accreditation.

For questions about IDA’s university-review process, please contact Director of Professional Development Liz Liptak at

Q: What is IDA’s plan for certification of individuals who teach reading?

A: As mentioned earlier, IDA is intent on changing the way that reading is taught in US schools. On April 25, 2014, the IDA Board of Directors approved, by unanimous vote, a multi-tiered certification program that is an extension of the accreditation of university and independent preparation programs. The certification involves three levels. The titles of the levels of certification are not yet definite, but preliminary descriptions of each level are outlined below.

The initiative begins with the classroom teacher who is the best frontline defense against reading failure. A teacher who successfully completes coursework with an embedded practicum that is aligned with IDA standards and demonstrates competency on the IDA certification exam is a Certified Classroom Reading Teacher and represents the first tier of certification. This certification will make teachers more marketable because school administrators will seek to employ these teachers to reduce the prevalence of reading failure in their schools.

A teacher with a minimum of three years of classroom experience who has satisfactorily completed an in-service practicum, in addition to completing coursework aligned with the IDA standards and demonstrating competency on the IDA certification exam, represents the second tier of the initiative and will be certified as a Certified Reading Interventionist. (A teacher working toward certification at this level might complete the in-service practicum, coursework, and exam consecutively—or the in-service practicum could occur three or more years after completion of the coursework and exam.) The goal of the practicum is to hone the skills of this teacher and prepare him or her to adjust and deliver differentiated instruction to meet the needs of individual students. Teachers with this certification will become campus literacy leaders who deliver the most appropriate evidence-based reading instruction to students in their classrooms and mentor other teachers to do the same.

Certified Dyslexia Practitioner or Certified Dyslexia Therapist, who is prepared through an intensive and in-depth practicum experience, represents the top tier of the initiative and reflects the essence of IDA’s founding mission: the treatment of people with dyslexia. An in-depth practicum supervised by a highly qualified instructor fully prepares an individual to meet the needs of students who have dyslexia, including those with the most severe disabilities. To fulfill this requirement, university programs that do not have faculty members qualified to deliver supervision of such an in-depth practicum can partner with independent standards-aligned organizations previously reviewed and accredited by IDA.

Q: Currently, IDA is reviewing only university-based teacher training programs that prepare teachers of reading. Are there plans for reviewing non-university-based programs?

A: IDA will collaborate with standards-aligned organizations to review other programs for accreditation. Additionally, IDA will look to these standards-aligned organizations to provide coursework and/or supervised practicum experiences for classroom teachers who have not graduated from accredited university programs and Certified Classroom Reading Teachers who wish to move to the Certified Reading Interventionist level.

To date, IDA has reviewed the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC), the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA), The Alliance, and the National Institute for Learning Development (NILD) and has confirmed that their course content and principles of instruction align with the IDA standards. As IDA moves through the accreditation and certification processes, IDA acknowledges the pioneering work of IMSLEC, ALTA, and the Alliance with deep gratitude and appreciation.

An IDA certification does not supplant other certifications in the field of dyslexia. An IDA certification designates three levels of competency that a teacher may have attained. These three levels of IDA certification will provide clarity and conformity of competency and the assurance that individuals with a specific level of certification have the requisite knowledge and skills designated by the requirements of that level. For the highest levels, teachers will have completed a practicum supervised by an approved highly qualified instructor.

IDA is guided by best practices in the field of certification. Best practices include 1) clear and distinct eligibility requirements that are as inclusive as possible; 2) a certification exam that is valid, reliable, and legally defensible; 3) ethics and discipline and a process for due diligence; 4) a recertification process; and 5) a separate governance board that is totally independent and disinterested in decisions made about accreditation and certification.

The target date for the completion of the IDA certification exam is early 2016. Demonstration of competency on the IDA certification exam is required for certification at all levels. As the development of the certification exam begins, IDA is establishing a separate and independent 501(c)(6) entity that will create and oversee all policies and procedures for the certification exam. This entity, preliminarily named The Center for Evidence-Based Reading and Learning, will also confer certification for Certified Classroom Reading Teachers and Certified Reading Interventionists. IDA will confer the certification for Certified Dyslexia Practitioners or Certified Dyslexia Therapists.

Q: Can you explain to Examiner readers how credentialing relates to IDA’s process for reviewing university programs for accreditation and reviewing qualifications of individuals for certification?

A: Credentialing is the sum of a simple equation. Accreditation—awarded after a successful peer-review—indicates that a teacher preparation program aligns with the IDA standards. Certification—awarded after successful completion ofaccredited coursework, practicum, and certification exam—indicates that an individual has met the IDA standards. The equation is this: accreditation + certification = credentialing.

IDA views the credentialing process as a key strategy necessary to change the way prospective teachers are prepared to teach reading. IDA can develop a direct line that connects university preparation programs to teacher competency to student achievement. Accredited university programs produce highly knowledgeable and skilled teachers of reading who seek certification and positively impact student achievement in reading. The marketing of these results encourages or pressures, whichever it takes, other universities to adopt instruction that meets the IDA standards that produce highly knowledgeable and skilled teachers of reading who seek certification and positively impact student achievement in reading.

The cycle of success that will be created and that will change the way reading is taught across this country is clear. Will it happen overnight? No. Will it be easy? No. But as the adage goes, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” IDA has taken that first step. The process may not always be as perfect as we would like, but we have begun. Each iteration will bring us closer to the ideal. As we move forward, we will help scores of students learn to read and enable them to reach their full potential. We owe all students nothing less.

Suzanne Carreker, Ph.D., CALT-QI, is the Senior Vice President of Program Development of Innovative Solutions at Neuhaus Education Center in Houston, TX, a non-profit organization that provides professional development to teachers in evidence-based structured reading instruction. A past president of the Houston Branch of IDA, she is a frequent speaker at local and national conferences and is the author of several language and literacy curricula. Dr. Carreker serves on the boards of the Academic Language Therapy Association and the Alliance for Accreditation and Certification and is currently the Secretary of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Professional Development Committee for IDA.

Copyright © 2014 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). We encourage sharing of Examiner articles.
If portions are cited, please make appropriate reference. Articles may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Permission to republish this article is available from