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: All elementary teacher candidates in New
York must pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination (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.
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. 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:
Ensure that the science of reading test is meaningful.
To ensure that its science of reading test is sufficiently rigorous, New York should evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance and that all teachers are well prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.
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.
New York stated that Teachers of Childhood Education candidates are required to complete at least six semester hours (90 hours of study) in language acquisition and literacy development by native English speakers and students who are English language learners; and in developing the listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills of all students. In addition, the state noted that programs must prepare candidates with a knowledge base for assisting students in grades 1-6 in meeting the State student learning standards. The State learning standards include the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. These standards address literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, and practitioners are expected to address the incorporation of literacy skills across core content areas.
The first paragraph of the Multi-Subject: Teachers of Childhood (grade 1-grade 6) Test Framework explains that the elementary teacher "skillfully applies knowledge of language and literacy development and knowledge of developmentally appropriate, effective materials, instruction, and formal and informal assessment in all aspects of literacy and English language arts to meet the literacy-learning needs of students from grade 1 through grade 6 across the content areas."
In New York State, elementary teachers apply and integrate students' knowledge and literacy skills practiced in one content area and transfer those skills to other content areas where they can be used to build new content and facilitate student learning. Elementary teachers regularly engage students across core content areas to develop students' literacy skills through the use of informational and explanatory texts. The state referenced the following test competencies:
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.