Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction : Maryland

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction : Maryland results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MD-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction--6

Analysis of Maryland's policies

In its Reading Course Revision Guidelines, Maryland requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. Programs must provide training in the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The state also requires reading coursework for all teacher candidates: 12 credit hours for early childhood and elementary teacher candidates and six credit hours for secondary teacher candidates.

However, Maryland does not require teacher candidates to pass a reading assessment prior to certification or at any point thereafter to verify that they have been effectively trained in the science of reading instruction.

Additionally, the state allows in-service early childhood and elementary teachers who were certified prior to September 2001 to test out of its coursework requirements by passing the Praxis II test, "Reading Across the Curriculum," which covers the five components of reading.


Recommendations for Maryland

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Although the state is commended for requiring teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading, Maryland should also require a rigorous assessment tool to ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared before entering the classroom. The assessment should clearly test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading, and if it is combined with an assessment that also tests general pedagogy or elementary content, it should report a subscore for the science of reading specifically. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

Maryland asserted that all elementary teacher preparation programs train teachers in the science of reading, including the five instructional components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Candidates must complete 12 course hours in the following areas: acquisition and processes of reading, instruction in reading, assessment of reading and materials for teaching reading. The requirement for the courses became effective January 1, 1999, and the requirement that they address scientifically based reading was implemented in 2004.  

Maryland further noted that all four-year and two-year preparation programs revised their reading courses to address the science of reading. Reading Course Revision Guidelines were created by a committee representing reading professionals from higher education and local school systems. The proposed guidelines were reviewed and endorsed by Dr. Louisa Moats of Sopris West Educational Services and Dr. Marcia Davidson, a senior research associate at RMC Research Corporation. The state added that there are more than 200 courses that address the science of reading instruction offered in Maryland's colleges and universities.  

Finally, Maryland contended that there is no test-out option for reading content in preparation programs. The test-out option for reading became available in September 2001, and it was only for in-service teachers who were certified prior to the implementation of the statewide reading course requirements.

Last word

In this analysis, NCTQ acknowledges the state's coursework requirements. However, to ensure requisite knowledge in the science of reading, Maryland is urged to require all elementary teachers to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction. 

How we graded

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. While elementary teachers need to be well versed in these components, even secondary teachers need at least some knowledge of this process, particularly if they work in high-poverty schools.

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 report What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning found that only 15 percent of teacher preparation programs in a national sample were providing even minimal exposure to 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 few states, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, have developed 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.

Research rationale

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:

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 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) at: 

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).