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: Michigan 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 standards for elementary teacher preparation programs, Michigan requires programs to address the science of reading. Further, the state requires elementary candidates to take six credit hours of reading instruction.
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 Michigan are required to pass the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) general elementary content test, which addresses expository texts, but does not include the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Literacy Skills: Michigan's reading standards for elementary teachers articulate that all candidates must "promote the integration of language arts in all content areas." However, this standard does not ensure that teachers are fully prepared to include literacy skills across the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: Regarding struggling readers, the state's standards require elementary teacher candidates to "recognize how differences among learners influence their literacy development and implement programs to address the strengths and needs of individual learners...." Michigan's reading instruction standards also require teachers to be able to,
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 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.
Michigan's elementary test does not adequately capture all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. Michigan 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, Michigan should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and use text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects, and the arts.
Michigan recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
Michigan indicated that the Michigan Legislature allocated $500,000 "for the adoption of a certification test to ensure that all newly certificated elementary teachers have the skills to deliver evidence-based literacy instruction."
Before a test may be developed or adopted, however, Michigan believes that strong preparation standards must be in place on which to base the test framework, and the state recognizes that the current Standards in Reading for All Elementary Preparation Programs are outdated. Therefore, Michigan's teacher preparation standards for all elementary teachers in the area of early literacy are currently being rewritten to provide a sharper and more detailed focus on research-based components of early literacy instruction (including, but not limited to, those components specified by NCTQ in this goal) and to address the instructional shifts encompassed by the adoption of Michigan's career- and college-ready standards for K-12 students enumerated above.
Michigan noted that significant work remains to be done on them, and they should not be linked in any formal NCTQ reporting until further notice. Some of the work to be accomplished before these standards are implemented involves a revision to the elementary certificate structure in Michigan.
There is a video detailing the proposed structure, which creates a PK-3 grade band with a heavier emphasis on literacy and mathematics (see 11:13 for an introduction and schematic for the proposed model). In addition to aligning to Michigan's K-12 career-and college-ready standards, two key documents in a series of "Essentials" documents developed by a comprehensive cross-section of Michigan educators (and with significant state agency involvement) serves as a foundational document for these standards, and specifically the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy Grades K-3 and Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy Prekindergarten.
As noted in the state's response to Goal 2-B, these standards will guide development of a new licensure assessment for all elementary teachers in literacy, which stakeholders have recommended be either a separate test or a noncompensatory subtest of a larger elementary licensure assessment. Stakeholders have recommended that a performance assessment component for literacy instruction be included in a new licensure test, but recognize that it may be prohibitively expensive. Finally, with regard to preparation to teach struggling readers, Michigan teachers who seek to advance from a provisional to a professional certificate are required by law to complete a minimum three semester hours of a program of study in the diagnosis and remediation of reading disabilities.
Michigan noted that although not legally obligated to be included in initial teacher preparation, a significant portion of Michigan EPIs (50%) includes this coursework within initial preparation programs, either as required for all students or for students in specific specialty areas (e.g., elementary education, learning disabilities).
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.
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.