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: Early childhood education teachers in Louisiana, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, are required to take the Praxis II Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test. The test is comprised of four subtests with individual scores in math, reading and language arts, science and social studies. Candidates must pass each subtest to be eligible for licensure.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: As a condition of initial licensure, Louisiana 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, Louisiana's new literacy competencies require all teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.
Informational Texts: Early childhood education teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. Early childhood education teachers in Louisiana are required to pass the revised Praxis II Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test. The reading and language arts subtest includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with these standards. However, although the framework now addresses complex texts, it does so only in the context of measuring text complexity and does not address how to also incorporate increasingly complex texts into instruction.
Louisiana's new literacy competencies for early childhood programs require teachers to have extensive knowledge of complex texts and to apply this knowledge wherein "the teacher candidate selects or designs and implements lessons and unit sequences which provide opportunities for all students to read a wide range and volume of texts for various purposes (e.g., understanding, pleasure, and research) and make connections among texts based on their language, craft, topics, themes, and/or ideas. When appropriate based on age- or grade-level standards, the teacher candidate supports students in selecting texts and assessing the credibility and usability of texts for different purposes."
Literacy Skills: Louisiana's new literacy competencies that apply to all early childhood education teachers require that the teacher candidate:
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Louisiana 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.
Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
To ensure that elementary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Louisiana should more specifically include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in all core subjects. This could be accomplished either through testing frameworks or teacher standards.
Louisiana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for the 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.