The early reading program of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s bachelor of science degree in elementary education has garnered accolades this week, earning an A grade from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Just 26 percent of schools nationally earned A grades for early reading programs, and UAFS is among only nine in the state of Arkansas who scored an A ranking or above.

“The faculty in the School of Education at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith is committed to training outstanding educators for Arkansas’s children,” said Dr. Monica Riley, interim executive director for the School of Education “April Evans, coordinator for elementary and middle-level programs and instructor in the courses that teach the science of reading, has done and continues to do an outstanding job in preparing our students to be proficient in the five components of scientific reading instruction. Receiving an A rating from NCTQ is an affirmation of those efforts.”

“I am elated by this wonderful news,” said Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the UAFS College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “It speaks to the quality and commitment of the School of Education and, in particular, to the success of their early reading initiatives. They are well-deserving of this accolade, and, though it is far from the reason they have dedicated themselves to this purpose, I believe it is fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate this recognition.”

The NCTQ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and policy organization committed to modernizing the teaching profession through evaluation, information, and research. The NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review evaluates and ranks more than 2,400 programs preparing new teachers, and publishes the results in the report: “2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction.”

According to the NCTQ, more than a third of American children cannot read by the fourth grade, a statistic which the National Institutes of Health has demonstrated can be reduced to less than 10 percent when teachers use the five essential components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. This standard provides the basis of the Teacher Prep Review scoring.

“We are happy to recognize the strong preparation in reading instruction that your undergraduate program provides to your elementary teacher candidates,” wrote NCTQ president Kate Walsh. Walsh further noted that UAFS earned its A-rating by providing a combination of explicit instruction on each of the five components of reading instruction; support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically-based reading practices; and, evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests, and fieldwork.

The complete report by NCTQ is available at www.nctq.org/publications/2020-Teacher-Prep-Review:-Program-Performance-in-Early-Reading-Instruction.

More information on the School of Education at UAFS is available at https://education.uafs.edu