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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards:
Maryland requires the Praxis Elementary Education: Content Knowledge for Teaching (7801) test. This test is currently under review by NCTQ to determine whether its separately scored subtests sufficiently assess candidates' content knowledge.However, this subtest does not generate a separate reading score and therefore would not amount to an adequate stand-alone reading 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 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.
Informational Texts: 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 standards.
Literacy Skills: Elementary 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." 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." However, these requirements do not ensure that teachers are fully prepared to include literacy skills across the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: 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." However, these requirements do not go far enough to ensure that teachers are fully prepared to identify and support struggling readers.
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 separate 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 elementary 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 elementary education 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 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. In addition, the state indicated that all Literacy courses for both elementary and secondary are or have been revised. The new framework for Literacy in the Content Area Parts I and II are published on the MSDE website. All preparation programs and other providers are currently revising their courses to meet the new standards. Maryland also noted that elementary coursework (12 hours) requirements are under revision with publication scheduled for January 1, 2018. Those courses are currently under revision to ensure sufficient instruction for the general classroom teacher to be effective with students for whom English is not the primary language, for students at both ends of the cognitive spectrum, and for cultural knowledge in addressing the acquisition of reading skills for all students. In addition, the skills required for successful mastery of the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards are addressed. Participating in the revisions have been stakeholder representatives from preparation programs, local school systems, private providers, Right to Read, and Dyslexia Maryland as well as a parent advocate.
2C: Teaching Elementary Reading
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, identifying five components of effective instruction. In fact, most reading failure can be avoided by routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings in the classroom. 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. Reports by NCTQ 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 2016 have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading, although the most recent Teacher Prep Review did find signs of improvement. 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 licenses 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 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.