Licensure Deficiencies: Florida

2017 Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

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.

Nearly meets

Analysis of Florida's policies

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:

  • Apply effective instructional practices to develop text reading skills in the appropriate content area
  • Select instructional practices for developing and using content area vocabulary
  • Determine instructional practices to facilitate students' reading comprehension through content areas
  • Apply appropriate literacy strategies for developing higher-order critical thinking skills
  • Select appropriate resources for the subject-matter and students' literacy levels
  • Differentiate instructional practices based on literacy data for all students.

Struggling Readers: Competencies for the Prekindergarten/Primary PK-3 test require teachers to "identify and apply appropriate processes for monitoring struggling students (e.g., RTI, tiered interventions) and planning and implementing intervention strategies." Florida's reading competencies also outline additional performance indicators pertaining to struggling readers.

Citation

Recommendations for Florida

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.

State response to our analysis

Florida responded with a helpful question that resulted in our clarification of this goal.


Updated: December 2017

How we graded

2D: Elementary Licensure Deficiencies

  • Adequate Content Knowledge: The state should ensure that all new elementary teacher candidates teaching under an early childhood license possess sufficient elementary content knowledge in all core subjects, including mathematics.
  • Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The state should ensure that all new elementary teacher candidates teaching under an early childhood license are required to pass a rigorous test of scientifically based reading instruction. 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.
  • College- and Career-Readiness Standards: The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers teaching under an early childhood license are sufficiently prepared for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction in all subject areas. Specifically,
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to incorporate informational texts of increasing complexity into instruction.
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to identify and support struggling readers.
Adequate Content Knowledge
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires early childhood teachers to pass the same individually scored content tests as elementary teachers.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires early childhood teachers to pass the same content tests as elementary teachers, but the content tests are not individually scored.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires all new early childhood 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.
College- and Career-Readiness Standards
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following: 

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if its elementary teacher preparation tests or standards address the three components of college- and career-readiness standards. To earn credit, states must have at least one component "fully addressed" and two "partially addressed."

Research rationale

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.[1] 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,[2] states would put students at risk by not holding all elementary teachers to equivalent standards.[3] 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.[4] 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.


[1] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, June). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Preschool
[2] 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
[3] Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; See also: Whitehurst, G. J. (2002, March). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. In White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teacher.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 1-21.; Research also connects individual content knowledge with increased reading comprehension, making the capacity of the teacher to infuse all instruction with content of particular importance for student achievement.; Willingham, D. T. (2006). How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning, and thinking. American Educator, 30(1), 30. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/spring-2006/how-knowledge-helps
[4] Torgesen, J.K. (November 2005). Preventing reading disabilities in young children: Requirements at the classroom and school level. Presented at the Western North Carolina LD/ADD Symposium.; 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