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2020 What's Hot in Literacy Report Finds Barriers in Education, Support Needed for Teachers

 | Jan 22, 2020

A new report released today by the International Literacy Association (ILA) reveals that only 34% of teachers surveyed felt equipped by their teacher preparation programs with the skills needed for effective early reading instruction. The differences in how teachers are prepared carries a price tag, according to respondents; the majority point to the variability of teacher knowledge and effectiveness as being among the greatest barriers to equity in literacy education.

The ILA 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy Report provides a snapshot of what 1,443 literacy professionals from 65 countries and territories deem the most critical topics to advancing literacy worldwide over the next decade. In addition, it identifies top challenges and supports needed by those in the field.

page 5 respondents (002)

Early literacy skills and equity emerged as top critical topics from those surveyed; access to high-quality books and content, professional learning opportunities and effective instructional strategies for struggling readers rounded out the top five.

The findings regarding teacher preparation and the variability of teacher knowledge and effectiveness relate directly to current conversations in the field regarding which instructional methods are included in preservice programs—and how much emphasis they are given. This lack of effectiveness also points to the need for more ongoing professional learning opportunities, a critical topic cited by respondents throughout the survey.

For example, though the majority of teachers reported that both phonics and phonemic awareness were covered in their preservice programs, the percentage who said their program did an “excellent” or “very good” job of preparing them to use these methods was low—27% for phonics and 26% for phonemic awareness. In addition, 30% of those surveyed indicated a desire for more professional development and/or a greater understanding of explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Teacher prep graph

More than a quarter of teachers said they need support in both creating a professional learning network and pursuing professional learning opportunities. In addition, 50% of respondents believe the topic of ongoing professional learning needs more focus and attention from education policymakers.

“Overwhelmingly, we learned that educators in the literacy field are in need of support,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “This survey helps us to identify where that support is needed so, as a professional organization, we can provide solutions.”

Another area in which the majority of respondents expressed the need for support is research. A whopping 93% cite research as the backbone of effective literacy instruction, and staying current on research was cited as a top three responsibility of literacy educators by 50% or more of teachers, literacy consultants and higher education professionals. In addition, 44% said this is an area in which they needed more support. And most—85%—agreed that academic experts and professional associations should provide that support.

The full survey findings are available in the ILA 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, available at Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #ILAWhatsHot.

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