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Law takes on reading instruction

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A law that is slated to go into effect in January will require that prospective elementary school teachers pass “a rigorous assessment of the candidate’s knowledge of the science of teaching reading.”

The bill was sponsored in 2011 by Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque and Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, a retired educator. It requires that college students seeking certification as elementary school teachers pass the new assessment.

Public Education Department spokesman Larry Behrens said the reading assessment is now available for all teaching candidates.

“This is extremely important because it raises the bar and helps us be more competitive,” he said in a written statement. “Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do to raise student achievement. Making sure every teacher, in every classroom, is equipped for success is the goal.”

The assessment will test teachers on the five essentials of reading instruction, which are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Janet Lear, who teaches reading instruction classes at the University of New Mexico, said UNM already prepares future teachers to use a variety of reading instruction methods. She also cited the five “essentials.”

“There are so many different pieces to reading, and our students need to have a very sophisticated understanding,” Lear said. “We take that very, very seriously.”

She also said she emphasizes to her students that decoding skills – the ability to sound out words – should be mastered early.

“What we promote a lot in our classes, is getting kids learning how to decode as early as possible,” she said. “Kids need to be able to read fluently in order to be able to move past that and really be able to look at texts and comprehend and think critically about what they’re reading.”

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