The state should ensure that new teachers who can teach elementary grades on an early childhood license possess sufficient content knowledge in all core subjects and know the science of reading instruction. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Content Test Requirements: New Hampshire's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, are only required to pass the Praxis II Education of Young Children (5024) test, which is not a content test.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: All early childhood education teacher candidates are required to pass the Foundations of Reading test as a condition of initial licensure. This test addresses all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Informational Texts: The Foundations of Reading assessment incorporates some of the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. The test 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.
Literacy Skills: 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, New Hampshire's Foundations of Reading test requires the following:
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
New Hampshire should require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a content test with separate passing scores for each of the core subject areas, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Although the state requires appropriate testing for elementary teachers teaching on an elementary certificate, New Hampshire creates a significant loophole by not holding early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades to the same requirements. The state's current practice of allowing teachers up through grade 3 to teach without ever having passed a content test is particularly worrisome and should be amended.
Ensure that elementary teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although New Hampshire 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 an example. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. New Hampshire is encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as to incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.
Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Although New Hampshire is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses literacy skills, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. New Hampshire is encouraged to make certain that its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all special education candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject into classroom instruction.
Support Struggling Readers.
Although New Hampshire is on the right track with its requirements of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses the use of assessments and strategies to support struggling readers, the coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. New Hampshire is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to identify as well as support struggling readers.
New Hampshire recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, but the state was unclear as to why it only meets a small part of this goal.
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.