Teaching Reading

Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy

Teaching Reading

The state should ensure that new elementary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the science of reading instruction. This goal has been revised since 2017.

Best practices

Texas will require all new elementary teachers to pass a rigorous test of reading instruction in 2021. The Science of Teaching Reading (293) test is a comprehensive assessment that specifically tests the five components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

NCTQ also commends states using the Foundations of Reading assessment to confirm that new elementary teachers are well grounded in scientifically based reading instruction. Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin each use this state-of-the-art test.


Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Teaching Reading national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/national/Teaching-Reading-90
Best practice 1

State

Meets goal 19

States

Nearly meets goal 3

States

Meets goal in part 1

State

Meets a small part of goal 20

States

Does not meet goal 7

States

State requires a test that fully measures elementary candidates' knowledge of the science of reading instruction.

2020
2017
Figure details

State requires a test that fully measures candidates' knowledge of the science of reading for licensure. : AK, AL, AR, CA, CT, FL, IN, MD, MN, MS, NC, NH, NM, OH, OK, PA, TX, VA, WA, WI, WV

State requires a test, but it does not measure candidates' knowledge of all components of the science of reading for licensure. : CO, DC, DE, ID, KS, KY, LA, MA, ME, MO, NJ, NV, RI, SC, TN, UT, VT, WY

State does not require a test that measures candidates' knowledge of the science of reading, or it allows some candidates to bypass the test.: AZ, GA, HI, IA, IL, MI, MT, ND, NE, NY, OR, SD

Footnotes
IL: Illinois is phasing out its Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Elementary Education (Grades 1-6) [#197-200] which contained separately scored English Language arts subtest. Beginning March 2021, all elementary candidates in Illinois will be required to pass the new ILTS Elementary Education (Grades 1-6) [#305] assessment, which report a single score for all subject areas.
MA: In addition to the Foundations of Reading test, candidates in Massachusetts have the option of meeting this test requirement by passing the MTEL Reading Specialist test. This test assesses the components of the science of reading instruction, but includes references to standards that are not aligned with the science of reading.
ME: Additionally, Maine also offers an early elementary license covering grades K-3. Early elementary candidates are required to pass the Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test, which does not cover the science of reading instruction.
NC: Teachers have until their third year to pass the reading test.
NJ: The state also allows an exemption to candidates who have failed to meet the passing score by five percent if they have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
TN: Tennessee allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests if they possess a bachelor's degree in a core content area.

State requires elementary preparation program standards to address the components of the science of reading instruction.

2020
Figure details

State requires elementary preparation programs standards to address the components of the science of reading instruction. : AL, AR, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV

State does not require elementary preparation program standards to address the components of the science of reading instruction. : AK, AZ, CT, DC, HI, KY, ME, MT, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, RI, SD, WI, WY

Footnotes
KS: Kansas' elementary education unified preparation standards, but not its elementary K-6 standards, address the science of reading instruction.
MI: Beginning in Fall 2021, Michigan will offer early elementary (PreK-3) and upper elementary (grades 3-6) licenses. New preparation standards for these licenses address the five elements of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Updated: September 2020

How we graded

2C: Teaching Elementary Reading

  • Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The state should require all elementary teacher candidates to pass a rigorous elementary test of scientifically based reading instruction in order to attain licensure. The design of the test should ensure that prospective teachers cannot pass without knowing the five scientifically based components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The state should require that all teacher preparation programs prepare elementary candidates in the science of reading instruction.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn a full point if it requires all new elementary teachers to pass a rigorous test of scientifically based reading instruction. The design of the test must ensure that all prospective teachers are competent in the five research-based components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. A stand-alone English/Language Arts (ELA) content test must be primarily focused on scientifically based reading instruction to earn credit.
  • Three quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it requires all new elementary teachers to pass a stand-alone reading test of scientifically based reading instruction, but the test includes content not aligned to scientifically based reading instruction or includes other content areas.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires all new elementary teachers to pass a stand-alone reading test of scientifically based reading instruction, but the test includes content not aligned to scientifically based reading instruction, and the state also allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if elementary teacher preparation standards address the five components of scientifically based reading instruction, but the state does not require an adequate - or any - scientifically based reading instruction test.

Research rationale

Teaching children to read is the most important task teachers undertake. Over the past 60 years, scientists from many fields have worked to determine how people learn to read and why some struggle. This science of reading has led to breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults, identifying five components of effective instruction. In fact, most reading failure can be avoided by routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings in the classroom. Estimates indicate that the current failure rate of 20 to 30 percent could be reduced to 2 to 10 percent.[1]

Scientific research has shown that there are five essential components of effective reading instruction: explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.[2] Many states' policies still do not reflect the strong research consensus in reading instruction that has emerged over the last few decades. Many teacher preparation programs resist teaching scientifically-based reading instruction. Reports by NCTQ on teacher preparation, beginning with What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning in 2006 and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review in 2016 have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading, although the most recent Teacher Prep Review did find signs of improvement.[3] Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must direct programs to provide this critical training. But relying on programs alone is insufficient; states must only grant licenses to new elementary teachers who can demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to teach children to read.

Most current reading tests do not offer assurance that teachers know the science of reading. A growing number of states, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia, require strong, stand-alone assessments entirely focused on the science of reading.[4] Other states rely on either pedagogy tests or content tests that include items on reading instruction. However, since reading instruction is addressed only in one small part of most of these tests, it is often not necessary to know the science of reading to pass.[5] States need to make sure that a teacher candidate cannot pass a test that purportedly covers reading instruction without knowing the critical material.

College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction. College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards.[6]


[1] Walsh, K., Glaser, D., & Wilcox, D. D. (2006). What education schools aren't teaching about reading and what elementary teachers aren't learning. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf; Torgesen, J.K. (2005, November). Preventing reading disabilities in young children: Requirements at the classroom and school level. Presented at the Western North Carolina LD/ADD Symposium. Retrieved from http://www.fcrr.org/science/pdf/torgesen/NC-interventions.pdf
[2] National Reading Panel (US), National Institute of Child Health, & Human Development (US). (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/Documents/report.pdf; To review further indications of the affirmation of the previously-mentioned research, see: Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C. A., Dimino, J., ... & Keating, B. (2016). Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade: Educator's practice guide (NCEE 2016-4008). National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/wwc_foundationalreading_040717.pdf
[3] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245; To review past TPR materials on teacher prep programs: Walsh, K., Glaser, D., & Wilcox, D. D. (2006). What education schools aren't teaching about reading and what elementary teachers aren't learning. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf
[4] For problems with many existing reading tests, see: Stotsky, S. (2006). Why American students do not learn to read very well: The unintended consequences of Title II and teacher testing. Third Education Group Review, 2(2), 1-37.; Rigden, D. (2006). Report on licensure alignment with the essential components of effective reading instruction. National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Reading First Teacher Education Network.
[5] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_eseaReauthorization.pdf
[6] Student Achievement Partners. (2015). Research supporting the Common Core ELA/literacy shifts and standards. Retrieved from https://achievethecore.org/content/upload/Research%20Supporting%20the%20ELA%20Standards%20and%20Shifts%20Final.pdf