Early Childhood: Indiana

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers 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.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Early Childhood: Indiana results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IN-Early-Childhood-69

Analysis of Indiana's policies

Indiana's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, are required to pass the Early Childhood Generalist test. This test reports separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science and social studies. The test also includes the equivalent of a standalone science of reading test and addresses the five components of scientific reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Indiana's early childhood educator standards for science-based reading instruction incorporate the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with college- and career-readiness standards and require the following:

  • Knowledge of key concepts and scientifically based reading research in comprehension and analysis of informational texts, such as levels of reading comprehension as applied to these texts; comprehension strategies; critical reading; text-based and nontext-based factors that affect reading comprehension; and genres, text structures, characteristics and graphic, textual and organizational features of informational texts
  • Ability to provide SBRR-based, evidence-based, and developmentally appropriate assessment, instruction, intervention, extension, and ongoing progress monitoring in comprehension and analysis of informational texts.
Neither state standards nor test requirements address the incorporation of literacy skills across core content areas.

With regard to struggling readers, Indiana's standards for English language arts include "strategies and skills to effectively assess students' understanding and mastery of essential English language arts concepts and skills, using ongoing assessment to monitor progress and inform instruction and applying Response to Instruction (RtI) procedures. New legislation in Indiana also requires teacher preparation programs to prepare candidates to be able "to recognize a student who is not progressing at a normal rate related to reading and may need to be referred to the school's multidisciplinary team...."


Recommendations for Indiana

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.
Indiana's standards are commendable regarding informational texts. To further strengthen its policy, however, the state should expand these standards to include literacy skills and use text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers.
Indiana should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that early childhood education teachers 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.

State response to our analysis

Indiana was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also reiterated the test requirements for candidates seeking the Early Childhood Generalist license.

Indiana indicated that the state will be requiring teacher preparation programs to meet CAEP standards that include a focus on helping students achieve college-and career-readiness standards. Reading instruction has been expanded to include "interventions that are direct, explicit, and multi-sensory" and teacher preparation programs have been instructed to incorporate this into their programs The Indiana Department of Education will be monitoring implementation of this new requirement in order to ensure compliance.

The state added that the Indiana Department of Education provides summer professional development opportunities for teachers focused on literacy across content areas. The purpose is to provide educators an opportunity to "focus on building instructional best practices that support Indiana's Academic Standards, ways to utilize and discuss data to drive interventions, components of effective leadership to drive school improvement efforts, and developing supportive and responsive evaluation practices." School leadership teams, instructional coaches, elementary and secondary teachers, secondary English/Language Arts and Math teachers, and secondary content teachers are encouraged to participate.

Indiana stated that the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) standards are aligned with the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is the Specialized Professional Association (SPA) for Early Childhood Education. Indiana stated that early childhood preparation programs are required to be NAEYC-recognized as part of CAEP and state accreditation. The state referenced Standard 5 of the 2010 NAEYC Standards for Initial and Advanced Early Childhood Professional Preparation Programs. Indiana also referenced the state's early childhood education standards.

Indiana also noted that the Indiana Education Educator standards are aligned with the standards of the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), which is the Specialized Professional Association (SPA) for Elementary Education. The state referenced Indiana's alignment with ACEI standards and specifically referenced the Early Childhood Generalist Standard 2.9.

Research rationale

Early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades must be ready for the demands of the elementary classroom.
Thirty-eight states have early childhood licenses that include some elementary classroom grades, usually up to grade three. Yet most of these states set a lower bar for teacher subject-matter knowledge for these early childhood licenses than they do for their more standard elementary licenses. Given the focus on content knowledge and building vocabulary in college- and career-readiness standards, states are putting 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 science is especially critical for early childhood teachers. 
While some states fail to ensure that any elementary teachers know the reading science on how to teach young children to read, it is incomprehensible that there are states that set an even lower bar for early childhood teachers than for teachers who can teach elementary grades on an early childhood license. Research is clear that the best defense against reading failure is effective early reading instruction. If such licenses do not put even more emphasis on the needs of the early elementary classroom, of which learning to read is paramount, one questions what purpose they serve at all.

Early Childhood Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research, Volume 73, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1960s? Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review, Volume 14, No. 1, March 1995, pp. 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. See Willingham, D. T., "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning—and thinking," American Educator, Volume 30, No. 1, Spring 2006.

For the importance of teachers' general academic ability, see R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation Volume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498; L. Hedges, R. Laine and R. Greenwald, "An Exchange: Part I: Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Student Outcomes," Educational Researcher, Volume 23, No. 3 April 1994, pp. 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," The American Economic Review Volume 61, No. 2, May 1971, pp. 280-288; E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research, Volume 66, Fall 1996, pp. 397-409; H. Levin, "Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, eds. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner, 1976, pp. 149-198; D. Monk, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 2, June 1994, pp. 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record, Volume 84, No. 3, 1983, pp. 564-569; R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner-City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research Volume 10, No. 1, March 1981, pp. 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record, Volume 80, No. 1,1978, pp. 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies," Economics of Education Review, Volume 5, No. 1, 1986, pp. 41-48; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

Sandra Stotsky has documented the fact that teacher candidates often make inappropriate or irrelevant coursework choices that nonetheless satisfy state requirements. See S. Stotsky with L. Haverty, "Can a State Department of Education Increase Teacher Quality? Lessons Learned in Massachusetts," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy: 2004, ed. Diane Ravitch (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004).

On the need for colleges and universities to improve their general education coursework requirements, see The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2004). For a subject-specific example of institutions' failure to deliver solid liberal arts preparation see, The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).

For information on teacher licensing tests, see The Academic Quality of Prospective Teachers: The Impact of Admissions and Licensure Testing (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1999). A study by C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J.Vigdor of elementary teachers in North Carolina also found that teachers with test scores one standard deviation above the mean on the Elementary Education Test as well as a test of content was associated with increased student achievement of 0.011 to 0.015 standard deviations. "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" The Calder Institute (2007).

For information on where states set passing scores on teacher licensing tests 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).

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).

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.