The state should ensure that new teachers who are licensed to teach elementary grades under an early childhood license demonstrate sufficient content knowledge in all core subjects and know the science of reading instruction. This goal has been revised since 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Massachusetts only requires its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 2, to pass the
MTEL Early Childhood test, which not only combines content with a pedagogy assessment but also does not report teacher performance in each
subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still
fail some subject areas.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Massachusetts requires early childhood education teacher candidates to pass its own Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) Foundations of Reading test, which is based on the state's standards and addresses the core areas of scientifically based reading instruction.
However, candidates have the option of meeting this test requirement by passing the MTEL Reading Specialist test. This test assesses the components of the science of reading instruction, but includes references to standards that are not aligned with the science of reading.
Massachusetts's early childhood preparation standards also address the science of reading instruction.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Require all early childhood candidates who are eligible to teach elementary grades to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Massachusetts should require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a core content test. Although requiring a content test is a step in the right direction, the state should require separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject covered on the test, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The state's current practice of using a composite passing score offers no assurance of adequate knowledge in each subject area and therefore fails to ensure that a candidate who achieves a passing score has the necessary subject-matter knowledge to teach a particular subject area.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Massachusetts is commended for requiring a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction that addresses all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. However, the state undermines this policy by allowing candidates the option of passing the MTEL Reading Specialist test which does not adequately assess phonics instruction.
Massachusetts should amend its policy and require passage of the Foundations of Reading test to ensure teacher candidates demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.
Massachusetts indicated that its new SMK guidelines include rigorous content expectations across all core areas.
2D: Elementary Licensure Requirements
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.