The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.
As a condition of initial licensure, all early childhood and elementary education teacher candidates in Connecticut must pass the state's Foundations of Reading test. The test's objectives include the five components of scientific reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Further, as of July 1, 2013, a program of professional development was created in scientifically based reading research and instruction. The program will be based on data collected from student reading assessments, provide differentiated and intensified training in reading instruction for teachers, and inform principals on how to evaluate teacher performance in science of reading instruction.
Ensure that the science of reading test is meaningful.
To ensure that its science of reading test is meaningful, Connecticut should evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance.
Connecticut recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that recent legislation will require, beginning July 1, 2014, that all current K-3 teachers complete a biennial reading survey, based on the Foundations of Reading test. The results of this survey will be used to design individualized professional learning for all current K-3 teachers but cannot be used in teachers' annual evaluations.
Connecticut's effort to ensure that current teachers have the skills and knowledge to be effective reading teachers is commendable. It is not just new teachers who need to know the science of reading.
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).