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Future teachers get experience. Striving readers get help. Check out this teacher prep lab in an elementary school

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North Carolina’s Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) provide about 12.5% of the elementary teacher workforce in the state’s 115 public school districts. With a new reading law mandating that teacher candidates receive coursework in the science of reading, NCICU officials said its campuses are well position ed to help answer the call.

NCICU is assembling a task force to implement uniform coursework grounded in the science of reading. To guide these efforts, the system is looking to two leaders from “model institutions” — Elon University and Lenoir-Rhyne University. In fact, according to leaders within the UNC System, several public institutions also are keeping an eye on these two universities.

VIDEO | Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Literacy Center, housed in a nearby elementary school

Lenoir-Rhyne University is recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality as a standout program for preparing future reading teachers. Here’s a look at its lab, which allows its College of Education students to practice reading instruction by tutoring students at Southwest Primary Elementary in Hickory Public Schools.

Monica Campbell, professor and chair of Lenoir-Rhyne’s College of Education, and Mary Knight-McKenna, director of the master of education program at Elon University, have worked with various education stakeholders, including the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction (DPI), and served on philanthropic efforts to boost reading instruction in the state.

The pair, according to NCICU President Hope Williams, will chair the NCICU science of reading task force.

“NCICU greatly values and is fortunate to have outstanding leadership in the area of science of reading at both Lenoir-Rhyne and Elon universities, and the state overall is fortunate to benefit from the early adoption of this model by these institutions,” Williams said. “We are fortunate to have two such great leaders in this area to lead the task force for our 31 educator preparation programs and who have already been assisting the UNC Task Force.”

NCICU is also leveraging an existing initiative to create professional development for educators in the science of reading. The system has focused over the past few years on its digital learning initiative for teacher preparation. It includes micro-credentialing for College of Education faculty and students. 

The General Assembly provided DPI with funds in its 2018 budget for the digital learning initiative, and DPI later awarded a grant to NCICU to spearhead the initiative. NCICU tapped five of its institutions to create a working group that is partnering with the UNC System and the Friday Institute.

Rupen Fofaria

Rupen Fofaria was the equity and learning differences reporter for EducationNC from 2018 through October 2023.