Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: New York

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers 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.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NY-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction-69

Analysis of New York's policies

All elementary teacher candidates in New York must pass the newly designed NYSTCE Multi-Subject:Teachers of Childhood as a condition of initial licensure. This test includes a separately scored English language arts/literacy section. It addresses all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, and it amounts to a stand alone reading test.  

Elementary teacher candidates must  be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. The Multi-Subject: Teachers of Childhood assessment includes the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. The test framework addresses "text complexity and instruction in text comprehension" and outlines the following performance indicators:

  • Demonstrates an understanding of how emergent text comprehension relates to comprehension skills that are the focus of instruction in later grades and to essential college- and career-readiness text-comprehension skills
  • Demonstrates an understanding of the role of asking a range of cognitively complex questions that require students to respond using text-based evidence
  • Applies knowledge of quantitative tools and measures for evaluating text complexity. 
It also outlines the following performance indicators relating to "instruction in reading literature and informational text":
  • Demonstrates an understanding of NYCCLS grade-specific standards in reading literature and informational text for grades 1-6 and the relationship of these standards to the development of college and career readiness in reading by the end of grade 12.
  • Applies knowledge of developmentally appropriate, research- and evidence-based assessment and instructional practices to promote students' development of skills for integrating, analyzing and evaluating knowledge and ideas from literary and informational text.
Neither teacher standards nor test requirements address the incorporation of literacy into core subjects.

The test framework also addresses struggling readers with the following performance indicator: "[S]elects and describes accurately and appropriately effective strategies, activities, or interventions to address a student's identified need ... in reading, writing, listening, speaking, language knowledge and conventions, and/or vocabulary acquisition."


Recommendations for New York

Ensure that the science of reading test is meaningful.
To ensure that its science of reading test is meaningful, New York should evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance. 

Support implementation of new state standards.
Although New York's testing framework for its elementary content test is commendable, the state is encouraged to strengthen its policy by making certain that there is a common understanding that the new college- and career-readiness standards require challenging students with texts of increasing complexity and may require shifts in what has been traditionally considered "developmentally appropriate."

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to 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 York 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.

State response to our analysis

New York stated that the Multi-Subject CST is not the only test Childhood Education 1-6 candidates must pass that measures their skills and knowledge of literacy instruction. The state also requires the edTPA for Elementary Education for Childhood Education 1-6 certification. New York indicated that consistent with state college- and career-readiness content standards and the InTASC Standards, edTPA assesses teaching skills that focus on student learning.
New York noted the following elements of the edTPA:

  • Requires aspiring teachers to document and demonstrate their readiness to teach through lesson plans, instructional materials, student assignments and video clips of teaching and analyses of teacher and student learning
  • Assesses a candidate’s skills and knowledge of literacy and mathematics instruction
  • Focuses on academic language, defined as the language of the discipline that students need to learn and use to participate and engage in meaningful ways in the content area
  • Addresses the oral and written language used for academic purposes and the means by which students develop and express content understandings.
New York stated that when completing the NYS Elementary Education edTPA, candidates must develop and teach "5 consecutive literacy lessons, which must be consistent with the NYS Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English-Language Arts and Literacy, including those in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. The lessons must also include a learning segment that reflects a balanced literacy curriculum. The candidate’s understanding of the academic language within his or her edTPA submission is evaluated and used to inform the candidate's assessment score. 

In addition, the state reiterated that the Multi-Subject test includes a separately scored math section and a separately scored general education and sciences section. Candidates must pass each section independent of the other sections. They must also pass the Academic Literacy Skills Test.

New York stated that the Commissioner’s regulations for the registration of programs leading to initial certificates for teaching childhood education (grades 1- 6) require a content core that shall be a major, concentration or the equivalent in one or more of the liberal arts and sciences. This, according to the state, in combination with the general education core and pedagogical core, ensures that the candidate has a knowledge base for teaching to the state learning standards for students in the following areas of the childhood education curriculum: the arts; career development and occupational studies; English language arts; health, physical education, and family and consumer sciences; languages other than English; mathematics, science and technology; and social studies.

New York indicated that the regulatory language developed in 1998 is purposefully generic allowing for changes in learning standards that occur over time. On July 19, 2010, the New York State Board of Regents adopted the CCSS for Mathematics and CCSS for English Language Arts Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, with the understanding that New York State could add additional expectations to the Common Core.

New York also described the efforts to assist the state's public higher education institutions with assimilating the new information on teaching and learning, including the incorporation and implementation of the CCSS into their programs. According to the state, Race to the Top funding was used to provide $10 million total to SUNY, CUNY, and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and in 2013, an additional $1.5 million was spent on faculty professional development.

New York also indicated that it has provided a wealth of resources to support practicing teachers,teaching candidates and teacher preparation programs with the implementation of the CCSS.

Research rationale

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. 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. NCTQ's reports 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 2013 and 2014, have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading. 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 a license 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 a 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. 
Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: Supporting Research
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, Vol. 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). 

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).

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.