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: Maryland's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach
elementary grades through grade 3, are required to pass the Praxis II Early
Childhood: Content Knowledge (5025) test. This test does not report separate
subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science or social
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Maryland 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. Teacher candidates or current certificate holders with certifications in early childhood may test out of reading requirements by passing the Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary (5203) test.
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.
Informational Texts: The Early Childhood: Content Knowledge test fails to address informational texts. Early childhood education teachers are required to take coursework in "materials for teaching reading to gain literary experience, to perform a task, and 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."
Literacy Skills: Maryland has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: Maryland's early childhood assessment only vaguely addresses the needs of struggling readers. The test requires teachers to know the "major indicators of common reading difficulties (e.g., delays in learning to read, dyslexia, comprehension difficulties)." 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."
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.
Maryland should require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. 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, math, science and social studies. Use of a composite passing score offers no assurance of adequate knowledge in each subject area. A candidate may achieve a passing score and still be seriously deficient in a particular subject area.
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 early childhood candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. Offering candidates the option of taking the Praxis Teaching Reading test or completing course requirements does not guarantee that teachers have the 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. 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 informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Maryland's early childhood test does not adequately capture all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. Maryland is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as to incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.
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 all candidates who teach elementary grades 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.
Maryland recognized the factual accuracy of this
analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
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.