Kindergartener Lea Wickham during a reading intervention session with teacher Katie Hoiland at Aragon Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. Aragon is one of the schools that showed drastic improvement in reading levels after using a competitive grant from the READ Act to overhaul teaching techniques. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

About two-thirds of Colorado’s teacher preparation programs, including the state’s two largest, earned low grades for how they cover early reading instruction, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The report, which is controversial for its reliance on documents such as course syllabi and textbooks, claims to assess whether teacher prep programs adequately cover five key components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Nationwide, about half of traditional teacher prep programs received an A or a B in this year’s report, the third round of evaluations published on the topic since 2013. In Colorado, six of the 19 programs evaluated received an A or B this year, including Adams State University, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Colorado Christian University, Western State University, and both the undergraduate and graduate programs at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

While many higher education leaders discount the report as an unreliable gauge of whether teacher prep programs adequately train teachers on reading instruction, there’s no debate that far too many children struggle with reading. In Colorado, just over 41% of third-graders met or exceeded grade-level standards on the state’s 2019 literacy test.

The state’s chronically low proficiency rates are part of what prompted state officials in late 2018 to start more rigorously evaluating how teacher prep programs cover reading instruction. The University of Northern Colorado — the state’s largest prep program — was the first to undergo the additional scrutiny as part of its state reauthorization process, and ultimately received a scathing review from state reading experts.

In the new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, the University of Northern Colorado received a C for both its undergraduate and graduate programs’ coverage of reading instruction. Metro State University of Denver, the state’s second-largest teacher preparation program, received a D for both its undergraduate and graduate program, and an F for its alternative teacher licensure program.


Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat Colorado covering early childhood education. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Denver Post. She holds a master’s degree in education policy from the University...