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 and are prepared for the instructional shifts related to literacy associated with college-and career-readiness standards.

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Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). 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-69

Analysis of Maryland's policies

Maryland 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 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 elementary teacher candidates and six credit hours for secondary teacher candidates. 

Teacher candidates or current certificate holders with certifications in elementary may test out-of-state reading requirements by passing the Praxis II Reading Across the Curriculum: Elementary test. 

Elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. Elementary teachers in Maryland are required to pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Instructional Practice and Applications (5019) test, which now addresses informational texts but regrettably does not adequately include the specific skills needed to teach the instructional shifts associated with Maryland's new standards.

Elementary teachers are required to take coursework in "materials for teaching reading to gain literary experience, to perform a taskand to read for information." Also, the state articulates in its Reading Course Revision Guidelines that teachers will demonstrate knowledge of "selecting, organizing, and evaluating text that supports the development of the five essential components of reading including but not limited to: informational text." The revised elementary assessment requires that a teacher "knows how to make connections within reading and language arts topics, across other disciplines, and in real-world contexts."

Maryland's assessment only vaguely addresses the needs of struggling readers. The Elementary Education: Instructional Practice and Applications test requires that a teacher "knows how to design and use formative assessments to adjust instruction." According to Maryland's Reading Course Revision Guidelines, teachers will be able to "modify a lesson to meet the needs of ... students with reading comprehension difficulties."


Recommendations for Maryland

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.

Maryland should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its elementary teacher 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. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Maryland's testing frameworks and reading course requirements do not capture all major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. The state is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all elementary candidates have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to 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, Maryland should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers.
Maryland should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that elementary 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

Maryland recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that while there is no plan at this time to initiate additional packaged, commercial testing of competence in the teaching of reading, the state does agree with the need to revise the 12 credits required in reading for the candidate. Maryland agreed with the portion of the analysis that underscores the need to instruct teachers with a more global view of literacy, including textual complexity, digital literacy and intentional and overt instruction for all primary and elementary teachers in diagnosis and appropriate intervention strategies for struggling readers, whether that struggle has to do with motivation, early experiences or impacting disability.

The state added that the Elementary Reading Work Group will utilize the courses developed through Maryland's Reading First grant, which employ scientifically based reading research and build out to meet the far more complex needs of Maryland College- and Career-Ready Standards (MCCRS) in literacy.  In addition, the work group will include members of the MCCRS and PARCC communities, the higher education and alternative preparation communities, the Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services, and members of parent and expert groups external to MSDE such as Decoding Dyslexia Maryland.

The state acknowledged that it does recognize that differentiation of instruction for a variety of students is inadequate in assuring that all children are identified and properly instructed early in their school careers. The work group is expected to produce deliverable products for course development by the Fall 2016.

Research rationale

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 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 and 2014, 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 direct programs to provide  this critical training. But relying on programs alone is insufficient; states must only grant a license to new elementary teachers who can demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills 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.

College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction.  
College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from a teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards. 
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).

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.