Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that new teachers who are licensed to teach elementary grades under an early childhood license demonstrate sufficient content knowledge in all core subjects and know the science of reading instruction. This goal has been revised since 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 Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) Prekindergarten/Primary PreK-3 test. The test consists of four subtests, three of which report separate subscores in English language arts and reading, math, and science. The fourth subtest deals with developmental knowledge.
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—but because the reading questions are combined with other English/language arts topics without a specific reading subscore, it does not amount to a standalone reading test. In its standards for program approval, Florida requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) www.fl.nesinc.com Florida State Board of Education Administrative Rules 6A-4.0142; 6A-5.066; 6A-4.0163
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.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Florida should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. The assessment should clearly test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading and address all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. If the test is combined with an assessment that also tests general pedagogy or elementary content, it should report a subscore for the science of reading specifically. Early childhood teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.
Florida recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that as required by section 1012.585(3)(f), F.S., the department is required to identify coverage areas that must earn specific credit for renewal, which include providing reading instruction or intervention for any students in kindergarten through grade 6. Teachers with the following coverage areas must take two credit hours (or 40 hours of professional development) in the use of explicit, systematic and sequential approaches to reading instruction, developing phonemic awareness and implementing multisensory intervention strategies in order to renew professional certificates with a beginning validity period of July 1, 2020. Coverage areas include: Elementary Education (K-6), Prekindergarten/Primary Education (age 3 through grade 3), Elementary Education (grades 1-6), Primary Education (grades K-3), English (grades 1-6), Middle Grades English (grades 5-9), Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum (grades 5-9), English (6-12), Reading (K-12), Reading (Endorsement), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) (grades K-12).
Recent updates also require providers with state approved EPIs to submit an updated reading matrix reflecting the changes in required reading competency instruction based on the area of preparation as a result of statutory updates to section 1004.85, F.S.
Florida also noted that teacher candidates are required to pass the professional education test for certification. Competencies require "knowledge of effective literacy strategies that can be applied across the curriculum to impact student learning," including the following skills:
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.