Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Michigan offers an early childhood specialization that authorizes the holder to teach grades Pre-K-3. This specialization is added to either a valid elementary or secondary certificate. Candidates are required to pass the Michigan Test for Teaching Certification (MTTC) Early Childhood Education test. Candidates who add the early childhood specialization to an elementary license will have taken the same content tests required of elementary candidates. However, teachers who have added the specialization to a secondary certificate will not have the necessary content knowledge to teach at the elementary level.
A new test for pre-K-3 teachers is being formulated.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The MTTC Early Childhood Education test addresses some of the components of scientifically based reading instruction; however, it does not contain a separately scored test, and therefore does not count as a stand-alone reading test. However, Michigan's new Pre-K-3 standards 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.
Test Requirement http://www.mttc.nesinc.com/ Michigan Administrative Code R 390.1121; 1123 MCL 380.1531(2)(a) Pre-K-3 Standards: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Lower_Elementary_PK-3_Education_Preparation_Standards_649824_7.pdf
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Michigan should require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a content test with separate passing scores for each of the core subject areas, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Although the state requires appropriate testing for elementary teachers teaching on an elementary certificate, Michigan creates a significant loophole by not holding early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades to the same requirements. The state's current practice of allowing teachers up through grade 3 to teach without ever having passed a content test is particularly worrisome and should be amended.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Michigan 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. 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. Early childhood teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.
Michigan recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also indicated that, as detailed in its Certificate Structure Revision guidance document, a new Birth-Kindergarten grade band has been developed and awaits State Board of Education approval, and this grade band will replace the current early childhood education endorsement. The preparation standards for this grade band were presented to the State Board of Education in August 2019, followed by a period of public comment and revision. The standards are projected to be returned to the State Board of Education for formal adoption some time in 2020. These standards feature an increased emphasis on instructional practices in literacy over the previous early childhood education standards.
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.