The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.
Arizona does not require elementary teacher candidates to pass an assessment that measures knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction prior to certification or at any point thereafter. The state's NES elementary content test addresses the science of reading and is divided into subtests, but because the reading questions are combined with other topics without a specific reading subscore, it does not amount to a stand-alone reading test.
Regrettably, early education teacher candidates in Arizona, who are allowed to teach through grade 3, are only required to pass the AEPA early childhood education test, which does not adequately address the science of reading, nor is it divided into subtests.
Arizona also does not require that teacher preparation programs for elementary teacher candidates address the science of reading.
However, Arizona does require elementary teachers to complete 45 clock hours or three credit hours of instruction in "research-based systematic phonics" during their first two years of teaching in order to receive their standard elementary certificate. The state also requires that schools must adopt a scientifically based reading curriculum as part of its professional development for current teachers.
NES Testing Requirements www.nestest.com Requirements for Elementary Certificate http://www.azed.gov/educator-certification/files/2011/09/requirements-for-elementary-certificate.pdf Arizona Statute 15-704
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Arizona should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. The state is on the right track in assessing elementary teachers' knowledge of the science of reading. However, the test must not only adequately address the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction, but it should also report a subscore for the science of reading specifically. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.
Further, Arizona should require its early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to also pass a rigorous assessment to ensure that they are adequately prepared in science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.
Ensure that teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teaching candidates in the science of reading instruction.
While Arizona does require elementary teachers to complete some professional development in scientifically based reading instruction, the state's policy would be stronger if its standards for teacher preparation programs included required training in scientifically based reading instruction.
Arizona recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
Reading science has identified five components of effective instruction.
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. By routinely applying in the classroom the lessons learned from the scientific findings, most reading failure can be avoided. Estimates indicate that the current failure rate of 20 to 30 percent could be reduced to 2 to 10 percent.
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. 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, still caught up in the reading wars, resist teaching scientifically based reading instruction. NCTQ's reports 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 2013, have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading. Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must ensure that their preparation programs graduate only teacher candidates who know how 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. 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. States need to make sure that a teacher candidate cannot pass a test that purportedly covers reading instruction without knowing the critical material.
Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: Supporting Research
For evidence on what new teachers are not learning about reading instruction, see NCTQ, "What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning" 2006) at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf.
For problems with existing reading tests, see S. Stotsky, "Why American Students Do Not Learn to Read Very Well: The Unintended Consequences of Title II and Teacher Testing," Third Education Group Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2006; and D. W. Rigden, Report on Licensure Alignment with the Essential Components of Effective Reading Instruction (Washington, D.C.: Reading First Teacher Education Network, 2006).
For information on where states set passing scores on elementary level content tests for teacher licensing across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).