Teacher Preparation Key to Effective Instruction

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Dyslexia and related reading and language problems are treated by knowledgeable teachers and skilled teaching.  A large body of research evidence shows that effective reading instruction is the key to lessening the impact of reading disabilities. With appropriate reading and writing instruction in the early grades, all but the most severe reading disabilities can be prevented or greatly reduced and students can get on track toward success. For those students with persistent dyslexia who need specialized instruction outside of the regular classroom, competent intensive intervention from a specialist can help them overcome and manage their difficulty.

Young ClassroomThe International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia as well as related language-based learning differences.  Because the treatment of dyslexia is educational, it follows that teacher preparation holds the key to the success of students with dyslexia and related learning differences. Teacher preparation programs must include the knowledge about reading and writing instruction that has been derived from research in the field.  In addition, teachers need supervised practice opportunities to be successful, especially if they are responsible for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.  In 2010, IDA published a major document entitled Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. This document defines professional development standards for the preparation of teachers of reading and/or programs that specialize in preparing teachers to work with students who have reading difficulties and disabilities.

The IDA standards describe what reading teachers should know and be able to demonstrate to help students who struggle to read and write. For teachers to be successful with all students, they must possess both knowledge and the abilities to apply that knowledge with proficiency.  The first section of the document outlines knowledge and practice standards in the following areas:

  1. Foundation Concepts about Oral and Written Language Learning
  2. Knowledge of the Structure of Language
  3. Knowledge of Dyslexia and Other Learning Disorders
  4. Interpretation and Administration of Assessments for Planning Instruction
  5. Structured Language Teaching:
    1. Phonology
    2. Phonics and Word Study
    3. Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text
    4. Vocabulary
    5. Text Comprehension
    6. Handwriting, Spelling, Written Expression
  6. Ethical Standards for the Profession

Additionally, the document provides guidelines pertaining to supervised practice of teachers of students with documented reading disabilities or dyslexia who work in school, clinical, or private practice settings. 

The establishment of the knowledge and practice standards is a critical component in IDA’s new strategic plan.  This plan affirms IDA’s purpose to provide the most comprehensive range of information and services that address the full scope of dyslexia and related difficulties in learning to read and write. Literacy provides every individual the opportunity to lead a productive and fulfilling life, and society benefits from the resources that literacy liberates.

Male TeacherTo that end, knowledgeable and skilled teachers of reading are essential. The standards will eventually be used to endorse individuals, university and college courses, and accrediting and certifying preparation programs. An IDA endorsement will be much like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” Teachers and other consumers will know with confidence that the information and services they are receiving meet IDA standards, which reflect the most current research findings and best practices.

The annual international conference of IDA will be a vehicle for teachers to acquire professional development and maintain certification from IDA-endorsed programs. With the standards, IDA endorsements, and the availability of professional development through conferences, IDA will be the “go to” organization for information on the preparation and professional development of teachers who work with individuals with dyslexia and related learning differences.

Because reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure, teachers must be adequately prepared to help all students.   With effective teacher preparation, students will receive the instruction and support that they require to reach their potential.

Click here for more information on the Knowledge and Practice Standards.

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