CU's Early Reading Program Receives High Marks from National Council


by Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18)

Cornerstone University's Teacher Education Division received an accolade from the National Council on Teacher Quality regarding the quality of their early reading program.

In a study conducted by the council in 2019, Cornerstone's curriculum for early reading education was ranked within the top three of colleges studied in Michigan. Cornerstone's curriculum received an "A" grade, meaning the design of the program is strong. Only two other colleges in Michigan also received an "A."

This distinction is especially notable due to the fact that the average score for Michigan schools falls below the national average. Cornerstone fell within the quarter of programs that qualified nationwide by meeting three criteria: explicit exploration of each of the five components of reading instruction, support for instruction with high-quality textbooks and evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through assignments and fieldwork.

"This high grade is evidence that our preservice teachers are receiving excellent instruction on teaching reading," said Dr. Laurie Burgess, division chair for the Teacher Education Division at Cornerstone. Burgess also said resources like textbooks, assignments and field experiences are supporting their effectiveness in the classroom.

In the U.S., 51 percent of the programs researched provide sufficient early reading coverage for future educators; however, only 26 percent of colleges in the study qualified for an "A" grade.

Burgess credits the success of Cornerstone's early reading program to the education faculty, namely Beth Vanderkolk, reading coordinator and professor of reading studies. "She is an excellent example of a Cornerstone professor whose primary focus is to honor God by sharing and demonstrating her faith through reading," Burgess said.

The council also judged and graded other aspects of early childhood education programs in traditional undergraduate settings, and those findings will be released in March 2020.