Momentum Builds to Change State Teaching Certificates
Significant changes in how students learn to read may be coming to our state.
Currently, classroom teachers in Maryland are not required to know how to teach reading. A growing number of people in our state believe that needs to soon change. One of those people is Raelene Perfetto, a Carroll County mom whose 13-year-old son struggled with reading.
“I really was never sure if my son was ever going to read,” says Perfetto.
Her son Nik did learn to read, but it was a long road. He says he grew frustrated when it would take him much longer to do his school work than his friends.
“A two-syllable word seemed like a seven-syllable word, and it was just a lot of stress pretty much,” says Nik Perfetto. “It didn't add up to me and that's why I got so frustrated, usually.”
Knowing something wasn’t right, the family had Nik’s Carroll County public school test him for learning disabilities. The family also had him tested independently and learned Nik is dyslexic, which they say the school didn’t diagnose.
“His whole world just started crumbling around him. He wasn't the same kid, that upbeat kid,” says Perfetto.
By middle school, Nik began to fall way behind. Because much to the Perfetto’s surprise, many of his public school teachers don’t know how to teach reading.
“I would call it a crisis, yes,” says Dr. Walter Dunson with Cardinal Reading Strategies. “I work with students every day, and I turn them from non-readers or struggling readers into active proficient readers. One thing that they always ask, "Why didn't anyone tell me this before?”
As of now, a Maryland teaching certificate does not include the science of reading. In other words, it is not required that teachers know how to teach kids to read. This past legislative session, Dunson supported H.B. 493, which would change that. He says Massachusetts passed a similar bill about 10 years ago. And recent federal test scores show Massachusetts is number one in the nation in 4th and 8th grade reading proficiency. Maryland is 12th and 22nd.
“Not being able to read is highly problematic, especially when we consider that 20% of those who are incarcerated are completely illiterate. Upwards of 70% are functionally illiterate,” says Dunson.
Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, chairs the committee where H.B. 493 was introduced but never came up for a vote. On the phone, he told Project Baltimore “Everyone agrees that teachers should know how to teach reading. The question is, what’s the best way to assess it? Should the legislature pass a bill or should it be up to the State Board of Education.”
Either way, families like the Perfetto’s hope something happens fast. Right now, Nik goes to a private school for dyslexic kids, but it’s expensive. In a few years, he’ll be going to high school and unless something changes, it won’t be a public high school.
“Right now, where he is,” says his mom, “all that anxiety, all that stress, it doesn't exist anymore.”