The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.
Georgia's 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.
In its standards for early childhood education teacher preparation, Georgia does require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.
GACE Test Requirements www.gace.ets.org Georgia Rules 505-3-.16 and 505-3-.75
Georgia asserted that early childhood education (P-5) teachers are required to pass the state-approved content assessment in that field, which includes a reading domain. Subscores in reading—not only at the subarea, but also at the objective level—are provided to the examinees and program provider.
Georgia also noted that candidates must pass a program admission assessment, which consists of a separate reading test, for which subscores and objective-level data are provided to the examinee and providers. All assessments are customized to state P-12 standards and program approval standards and are developed by educators and those that prepare educators. With the transition to ETS, Georgia is developing even more rigorous, authentic assessments that include reading for P-12, middle grades reading and early childhood education (P-5). The positive impact of this testing supplier transition will also affect the rigor and authenticity of the program admission assessment, of which reading is one test within that assessment.
Georgia is on the right track, but the state does not yet have a test in place ensuring that only teachers with sufficient knowledge and skills to teach reading are licensed. Subscores are provided for informational purposes; candidates are not required to specifically pass a stand-alone science of reading assessment.
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).