The state should ensure that new teachers who can teach elementary grades on an early childhood license possess sufficient content knowledge in all core subjects and know the science of reading instruction. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Early childhood education teacher candidates who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3 must earn a passing score on the Prekindergarten/Primary PK-3 test, which consists of four separately scored subtests. The subtests are: developmental knowledge, language arts and reading, mathematics, and science.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The Prekindergarten/Primary PK-3 test includes a separately scored language arts and reading section. The language arts section addresses all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction— phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension— and is therefore equivalent to a stand-alone reading test.
Informational Texts: The Prekindergarten/Primary PK-3 test partially addresses informational texts. It requires teachers to "apply effective reading strategies to comprehend complex informational texts" and "apply instructional approaches and strategies for teaching informational literacy skills." Additionally, reading competencies for early childhood teachers fully address the use of informational texts.
Literacy Skills: Florida's competencies for its Professional Education test require "knowledge of effective literacy strategies that can be applied across the curriculum to impact student learning," including the following:
Require early childhood teacher candidates to demonstrate content knowledge in every core subject.
Florida is commended for requiring a test with separate subscores in three core content areas. However, the state should ensure that early childhood teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach social studies and also require an assessment that provides a separate score in this area.
Ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Although Florida is commended for connecting literacy to the social sciences and for making broad mention of the instructional shift in its pedagogy exam, the state should strengthen its policy and expand its requirements to include literacy skills and using text to specifically build content knowledge in science, technical subjects and the arts.
Florida responded with a helpful question that resulted in our clarification of this goal.
2D: Elementary Licensure Deficiencies
Early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades must be ready for the demands of the elementary classroom. Many states have early childhood licenses that include some elementary classroom grades, usually up to grade three. Because teachers with this early childhood license can still teach many elementary grades, they should not be held to a lower bar for subject-matter knowledge than if they held more standard elementary licenses. Given the focus on building students' content knowledge and vocabulary in college- and career-readiness standards, states would put students at risk by not holding all elementary teachers to equivalent standards. That is not to say the license requirements must be identical; there are certainly different focuses in terms of child development and pedagogy. But the idea that content knowledge is only needed by upper-grade elementary teachers is clearly false.
Focus on reading instruction is especially critical for early childhood teachers. Although some states do not ensure that any elementary teachers know the science of how to teach young children to read, in the states where this is a priority, it is inexcusable to hold elementary teachers on an early childhood license to a lower standard. Research is clear that the best defense against reading failure is effective early reading instruction. Therefore, if such licenses are neglecting to meet the needs of the early elementary classroom, of which learning to read is paramount, they are failing to meet one of their most fundamental purposes.