The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.
Louisiana does not require teacher candidates to pass an assessment that measures knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction prior to certification or at any point thereafter.
In its reading and language competencies for new teachers, Louisiana does require all teacher preparation programs, including elementary programs, to address the science of reading.
Louisiana Administrative Code Title 28, Part XCV, Bulletin 113
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Louisiana should also require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment to ensure that they are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.
Louisiana asserted that it uses a rigorous process to ensure that teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction. Elementary alternate certification candidates are required to pass the Praxis Teaching Reading assessment, if they were not provided nine credit hours of reading courses. For programs that do require nine credit hours of reading, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has created a set of reading/language competencies based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel and requires all universities to undergo a rigorous review process by national experts to ensure that programs fully address these competencies. Programs are not approved if they do not meet the state's expectations. State accreditation visits are used to ensure that the reading/language competencies continue to be addressed in courses. BESE and the Board of Regents are now using the value-added results of teacher preparation programs to ensure that the programs are preparing teachers in the area of reading. Louisiana has ensured that teacher candidates know the science of reading that surpasses administration of an assessment.
Requiring reading/language competencies to be addressed in teacher preparation programs is a step in the right direction. However, the only way to guarantee that teacher candidates have acquired the requisite knowledge in the science of reading is to require a passing score on a rigorous assessment prior to entering the classroom. NCTQ's Teacher Prep Review has shown that most teacher preparation programs across the country, including some in Louisiana, fail to train elementary teachers to be effective reading teachers.
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).