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: Early childhood education teacher candidates in New Mexico, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, are required to pass the Essential Academic Skills (Subtests I, II, and III) and the New Mexico Assessment of Teacher Competency (Early Childhood) test. The Academic Skills test contains three separately scored tests in reading, writing and mathematics but does not report separate subscores in content areas of science or social studies.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, New Mexico 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. The reading and writing subtests of the Essential Academic Skills test do not cover scientifically based reading instruction. The state's competencies address some components of scientifically based reading instruction such as fluency, vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Additionally early childhood education candidates must complete 6 semester hours of credit in the teaching of reading.
Informational Texts: New Mexico has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address the use informational texts.
Literacy Skills: New Mexico has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: New Mexico has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood teachers that address the needs of struggling readers.
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
New Mexico should ensure that its early childhood content test is appropriately aligned with the college- and career-readiness standards and require separate, meaningful passing scores for each area on the test. Although New Mexico is on the right track by administering a three-part licensing test, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas, the state should require separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject covered on the test, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
New Mexico should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood 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 early childhood 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.
New Mexico's early childhood test does not adequately capture all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. New Mexico is therefore 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.
To ensure that elementary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, New Mexico should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.
Support struggling readers.
New Mexico should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that all candidates who teach elementary grades 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.
New Mexico recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced the analysis.
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.