Elementary Teacher Preparation 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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards:
North Carolina requires elementary teacher candidates to pass the Foundations of Reading test. Test objectives include all five components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. However, the state allows teachers to fulfill this testing requirement in their second year of teaching, provided they attempt to pass the assessments during their first year.
North Carolina also requires all teacher preparation programs for elementary teacher candidates to address the science of reading.
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 North Carolina are also required to pass the Pearson General Curriculum test. Its standards for language arts require teachers to "recognize types of nonfiction (e.g., informational text) and common organizational features of nonfiction (e.g., chronological order, comparison and contrast, illustrations, captions, keys)." The Foundations of Reading assessment requires teachers to "understand how to apply reading comprehension skills and strategies to informational/expository texts." The framework then offers an extensive list of examples for achieving this competency. However, these test standards do not go far enough to ensure that candidates are fully prepared to incorporate increasingly complex text into instruction.
Literacy Skills: North Carolina's rubric for teacher candidate evaluation addresses incorporating literacy into all content areas. It requires elementary teachers to have "explicit and thorough preparation in literacy instruction," and to be ranked proficient, candidates must be able to "integrate effective literacy instruction throughout the curriculum and across content areas to enhance students' learning." Testing frameworks do not address incorporating literacy into all academic subjects.
The Foundations of Reading assessment requires teachers to demonstrate "strategies for promoting comprehension across the curriculum by expanding knowledge of academic language, including conventions of standard English grammar and usage, differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English, general academic vocabulary, and content-area vocabulary." However, this is just one example under the broad test objective heading of "Understand vocabulary development."
Struggling Readers: Regarding struggling readers, the state's reading test requires the following:
Test Requirements http://www.nc.nesinc.com Senate Bill 599 (2017) http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Bills/Senate/PDF/S599v5.pdf NC Board of Education Policy Manual, LICN-003 Teacher Candidate Evaluation Rubric http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/ihe/edprep/teacher/pre-service-teacher-rubric.pdf
Ensure that the science of reading test is meaningful.
North Carolina should evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance. Passage of the test should be a mandatory requirement for an initial license. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher who has demonstrated adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although North Carolina is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses 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. North Carolina is encouraged to make certain its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all elementary candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.
North Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. However, the analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
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.