State grant will support PNW Education students in preparing for Science of Reading-based instruction

March 27, 2024

Up to 85 Purdue University Northwest (PNW) students are expected to be supported through a $38,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) for coursework during summer 2024 that reinforces Science of Reading standards for teaching elementary reading comprehension in Indiana.

The synchronous coursework will allow qualifying Education students to deepen their understanding of the Science of Reading’s standardized, systematic approach to learning best practices for instilling phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension for young Hoosiers. Instruction will be supplemented by a third-party vendor, Keys to Literacy.

PNW, through its School of Education and Counseling, was one of 17 recipients for Education Preparation Provider Literacy Endorsement Professional Development grants that support college students and future educators in adequately preparing to meet these new state-mandated standards.

In 2023 Indiana state legislation was enacted requiring school districts and charter schools to adopt curricula in line with Science of Reading standards by the 2024-25 school year. The Science of Reading includes a range of evidence-based strategies and instructional approaches proven to be effective in teaching children how to read.

The best possible thing that can happen is that teachers learn the specifics of phonological awareness and how to build fluency with phonic skills.

Mary Ann Cahill, professor of Education

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The legislation also requires that future Indiana primary education teachers intending to teach literacy for early childhood, elementary and special education students will need to earn a literacy endorsement. This certification must be supported through at least 80 hours of professional development aligned with Science of Reading, International Dyslexia Association and IDOE standards and completion of a written exam to demonstrate proficiency.

“I think that the Science of Reading is excellent in that it shines a spotlight on phonological awareness and phonics and presenting explicit instruction in those areas,” said Mary Ann Cahill, professor of Education. “We know that for children who do not have phonological awareness, the ability to hear and manipulate sounds and words, learning to read will be much more challenging for them. The best possible thing that can happen is that teachers learn the specifics of phonological awareness and how to build fluency with phonic skills.

“Our Education students need to have a bank of teacher knowledge, how to assess for phonological awareness and what strategies are best to use. That is what we are focused on at Purdue Northwest.”

In 2023 PNW’s undergraduate program curriculum in Elementary Education received recognition from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for its rigorous preparation of future educators in close alignment with Science of Reading standards. PNW was among 23% of higher education institutions nationally to receive an “A” grade in NCTQ’s report “Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction.”