Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: Missouri

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.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: Missouri results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MO-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction-69

Analysis of Missouri's policies

Although Missouri does not require teacher candidates to pass a separate reading test, the state's framework for the Missouri Educator Gateway Assessment (MEGA): Elementary Education Multi-Content test requires separate passing scores on each core subject test. While the content test addresses the science of reading and is divided into subtests, because the reading questions are combined with other topics without a specific reading subscore, it does not amount to a stand alone reading test.

In addition, in its elementary teacher competencies, Missouri requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.

Elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. According to the framework of the state's Elementary Education Multi-Content test, teachers must be able to "understand text comprehension and vocabulary development." The state then offers the following examples, which incorporate the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with Missouri's college- and career-readiness standards for students: 

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how emergent text comprehension in the early elementary grades relates to text comprehension in the later grades and to essential text comprehension skills needed for college and career readiness
  • Apply knowledge of quantitative tools and measures for evaluating text complexity, qualitative dimensions of text complexity (e.g., levels of meaning, text structure, language conventionality and clarity, knowledge demands) and the role of reader variables (e.g., motivation, knowledge, experiences) and task variables (e.g., purpose, complexity) in matching a reader to text and task
  • Apply knowledge of strategies for facilitating comprehension before, during, and after reading; for integrating, analyzing and evaluating knowledge and ideas from literary and informational texts; and for using textual evidence to support analysis, reflection and research.

The English language arts competencies also require teachers to "demonstrate the ability to comprehend, interpret, and analyze literary and informational texts," followed by these examples:
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key characteristics, elements, organizational structures, and textual and graphic features of various types of informational text, including biographies, autobiographies, nonfiction texts on a range of topics, technical texts and digital sources, as well as information displayed in graphs, charts or maps
  • Demonstrate how to use textual evidence to support analysis of an informational text's explicit and implicit meanings and its theme or central ideas and to determine the author's point of view or purpose and how it is conveyed in a text
  • Recognize an accurate, objective summary of an informational text
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a literary or informational text, including figurative, connotative and technical meanings, and analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.
Further, Missouri addresses literacy within its science competencies by requiring teachers to "apply literacy skills to the interpretation, synthesis, and analysis of information from scientific and technical sources (e.g., explaining central ideas, interpreting domain-specific terminology, recognizing how texts structure information into categories and hierarchies)." The state's framework also requires historical, geographic and political science and economic literacy.

Missouri has no requirements for the preparation of elementary teachers that address struggling readers.


Recommendations for Missouri

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Missouri 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 state is on the right track in assessing elementary teachers' knowledge of the science of reading. However, the test must not only adequately address the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction, but it should also 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.

Although Missouri is on the right track with its framework for content tests, which address knowledge of informational texts, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Missouri is encouraged to make certain both frameworks capture the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all elementary teacher candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text 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, Missouri should strengthen its policy and more specifically include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers. 

Missouri should articulate 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

Missouri recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.  In addition, the state noted that elementary education candidates must address literacy in MoPTA, Task number 2, and that the Missouri Model Standards and Quality Indicators include competencies in literacy.

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.