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: Montana's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach from age three through grade 3, are only required to pass the new Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test. This test does not report separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science, or social studies.
Passage of the test is one part of three requirements for Montana's Assessment of Content Knowledge Verification. A candidate's student teaching/clinical practice score, content knowledge assessment score, and overall GPA factor into an overall content knowledge score between one and 10.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Montana 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. Montana's early childhood preparation standards do not address scientifically based 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.
Montana Administrative Rules 10.57.102; 410; 412 and 10.58. 501; 531 Montana Assessment of Content Knowledge (MACK) http://opi.mt.gov/Leadership/Assessment-Accountability/Educator-Preparation/IR-Templates
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.
Montana should require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a core content test. 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 early childhood teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Montana should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood education 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 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.
Ensure that teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teaching candidates in the science of reading instruction.
Montana should require teacher preparation programs in the state to train candidates in scientifically based reading instruction to help ensure that all teachers are well prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. Additionally, articulated scientifically based reading instruction standards help ensure that any subsequent test adoptions are aligned with Montana's expectations for what candidates should know and be able to do.
Montana did not respond to NCTQ's request to review this analysis for accuracy.
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.