Reading teachers get help, too Courses: Towson University offers new classes focusing on the theory of how children learn and practical training for instructors.

November 01, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Trying to take the lead in Maryland's effort to improve the training of teachers in reading, Towson University's education faculty has revealed plans to improve and expand courses.

The new classes will include extra instruction in theories of how children learn to read and more practical training in how to teach in both elementary and secondary classrooms, faculty members said.

"We are developing a clear and coherent vision for reading education," said Bess Altwerger, an elementary education professor who led the faculty's evaluation of Towson's reading program. "We are very concerned that our students gain the confidence to perform."

Towson unveils its plans as the Maryland State Board of Education has approved additional reading course requirements for the state's 47,000 teachers and aspiring teachers.

The state board's action requires all aspiring elementary teachers to pass four courses in reading for certification and all aspiring middle and high school teachers to pass two courses. The state previously required only one reading course, but most colleges -- including Towson -- have required more.

Though the state board approved the new requirements in July, Towson's reading task force -- known on campus as the Towson Reading Initiative -- has been working since fall 1997, when the college's educators decided to review how they taught reading instruction to new teachers.

"We didn't want to wait for everyone else," said Dennis Hinkle, dean of Towson's College of Education. "Reading is such an important issue, and I felt that we have the expertise here at Towson to set the standards for Maryland.

"Reading is not just for elementary education. Reading is the College of Education," Hinkle said.

Under the proposal outlined at a recent education faculty meeting, all Towson teacher candidates would be required to take four courses.

All prospective teachers would be required to take a class on the foundations of reading and language arts and another class on how to assess literacy levels in students. Elementary teacher candidates also would be required to take a class on the principles and practices of language arts instruction in elementary school as well as a children's literature course.

Secondary teacher candidates would have two required classes specific to middle and high schools, including a class on how to teach reading in such subject areas as science and social studies.

But Towson faculty members acknowledge that not many educators have the expertise to lead classes on how to teach reading in high schools.

This school year, 30 teachers from the city and the six area county school systems have been working with Towson professor Gloria Neubert to review research and learn how to teach other teachers.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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