We’ve long considered reading and writing skills to be critical outcomes of education, but as students increasingly are expected to demonstrate their learning through oral and written presentations rather than fill-in-the-bubble tests—even in math—literacy has truly become a keystone for all other learning.

Rubric for success

We don’t leave literacy instruction just to language arts teachers. All prospective teachers need to study ways to help students improve their reading and writing, no matter what the subject area.

"Increasing attention to literacy takes more of teachers’ time, especially giving students personalized feedback on their writing." 

To help codify this practice, an International Literacy Association task force is studying states’ licensing standards for teachers and interviewing teacher educators, and another group of researchers is revising national recognition standards for teacher preparation programs to reflect the latest evidence on improving student literacy.

Personalizing education

Schools also face a new urgency to close persistent achievement gaps, and prospective teachers are learning culturally responsive pedagogy to better serve diverse students. Teacher candidates in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s urban education program, for example, study the role of culture, race, class and language to help them create safe environments and tailor students’ literacy learning to their context.

Increasing attention to literacy takes more of teachers’ time, especially giving students personalized feedback on their writing. Fortunately, innovators have been supporting this work by developing technological tools such as electronic portfolio systems for tracking student learning, and artificial intelligence-assisted programs for writing practice. Many universities also partner with schools to analyze their students’ language arts test results and collaboratively develop interventions to improve targeted areas.