Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Illinois requires its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, to pass the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Early Childhood Education test, which appears to focus primarily on
pedagogy and child development.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Illinois does not require its early childhood candidates to pass a reading test addressing the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. However, the state's new early childhood education standards now address these components.
Informational Texts: Illinois's Early Childhood Education test fails to address informational texts. However, beginning in 2019, new standards for early childhood teachers require that teachers:
Illinois Licensure Testing System www.il.nesinc.com Illinois Administrative Code Title 23, Sections, 24.130; 26.125 and 25.25 105 ILCS 5/21B-30
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Illinois should require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a content test with separate passing scores for each of the core subject areas, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Although the state requires appropriate testing for elementary teachers teaching on an elementary certificate, Illinois creates a significant loophole by not holding early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades to the same requirements. The state's current practice of allowing teachers up through grade 3 to teach without ever having passed a content test is particularly worrisome and should be amended.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Illinois 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.
Ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Support struggling readers.
Illinois should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that all candidates who teach elementary grades are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. The early elementary grades are an especially important time to address reading deficiencies before students fall behind.
Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.