Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction : Nebraska

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction : Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NE-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction--6

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska does not require that teacher preparation programs for elementary teacher candidates address the science of reading.

The state does require teacher preparation programs to ensure that teacher candidates participate "in activities which will enable them to develop competencies in teaching the reading and writing skills necessary" for their teaching fields. However, Nebraska's standards do not make any mention of the five essential components of reading instruction.

The state's standards are accompanied by endorsement guidelines, which do specifically address the science of reading. Unfortunately, the document states that "the guidelines recommended for use with Rule 24 are suggestions only."

Nebraska also 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.

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Ensure that teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teaching candidates in the science of reading instruction.
Nebraska should ensure that teacher preparation programs adequately prepare elementary teacher candidates in the science of reading by requiring that these programs train candidates in the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Although Nebraska's endorsement guidelines commendably address the science of reading, these are merely recommendations. There is no assurance that teacher preparation programs will incorporate these components into the curriculum for elementary teacher candidates.

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Nebraska 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 if it is combined with an assessment that also tests general pedagogy or elementary content, it should 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.

State response to our analysis

Nebraska contended that although the Rule 24 Guidelines include the statement "recommended for use with Rule 24," all institutions are held accountable for all elements contained in the guidelines. The state monitors compliance during the annual program approval process as well as during the periodic comprehensive program approval review. 

Last word

Nebraska should clarify its wording—and ideally codify the requirement—to ensure that elementary teacher candidates are prepared in the science of reading. 

How we graded

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. While elementary teachers need to be well versed in these components, even secondary teachers need at least some knowledge of this process, particularly if they work in high-poverty schools.

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, still caught up in the reading wars, resist teaching scientifically based reading instruction. NCTQ's report What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning found that only 15 percent of teacher preparation programs in a national sample were providing even minimal exposure to the science of reading. Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must ensure that their preparation programs graduate only teacher candidates who know how to teach children to read.

Most current reading tests do not offer assurance that teachers know the science of reading.

A few states, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, have developed 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.

Research rationale

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 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) at: 
http://www.tegr.org/Review/Articles/vol2/v2n2.pdf.

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).