2017 Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that special education teachers know the science of reading instruction and are fully 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: As a condition of initial licensure, all special education teacher candidates
in Ohio must pass the state's Foundations of Reading test. The test's
objectives include the five components of scientific reading instruction:
phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
In addition, in its coursework requirements for all teacher candidates, Ohio requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. The state requires all teachers to take at least three credit hours of coursework in reading instruction. To obtain licensure in special education, teacher candidates must complete 12 credit hours in the teaching of reading, which must include a distinct three-credit-hour course in the teaching of phonics. Programs must provide training in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension.
Informational Texts: Special education teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. Ohio's required Foundations of Reading assessment 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. However, these test standards do not go far enough to ensure that candidates are fully prepared to incorporate increasingly complex text into instruction.
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:"Understand vocabulary development."
Struggling Readers: With regard to struggling readers, Ohio's coursework requirements for new special education teachers "includes training in a range of instructional strategies for teaching reading, in the assessment of reading skills, and in the diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties." The Foundations of Reading test requires the following:
Ohio Assessment for Educators www.oh.nesinc.com Ohio Administrative Code 3301-24-05(A)(5) and 3301-24-18 Ohio Revised Code 3319.24
Ensure that new special education teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although Ohio is on the right track by requiring the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which candidates are required to demonstrate knowledge of this information is unclear. NCTQ encourages Ohio to make certain that its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all special education teacher candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.
Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Although Ohio 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. Ohio 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 Ohio 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. With reading difficulties generally representing the primary reason for special education placements, it is essential that all special education teachers have the knowledge and skills to diagnose and support students with literacy needs.
Ohio was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts than enhanced this analysis. The state also indicated that effective July 1, 2017, the Foundations of Reading test is a requirement for the following licensing areas: Early childhood; Middle childhood; Gifted; Mild/moderate educational needs; Moderate/intensive educational needs; Visually impaired; Hearing impaired; and Early childhood intervention specialist.
4B: Teaching Special Education Reading
Teaching children to read is the most important task teachers at the elementary level 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. 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. 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 special education teachers who can demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to teach children to read.
Effective early reading instruction is especially important for teachers of special education students. By far, the largest classification of students receiving special education services are those with learning disabilities. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, it is estimated that reading disabilities account for about 80 percent of learning disabilities. While early childhood and elementary teachers must know the reading science to prevent reading difficulties, special education teachers, and especially elementary special education teachers, must know how to support students who have already fallen behind and struggle with reading and literacy skills. States should require no less from special education teachers in terms of preparation to teach reading than they require from general education teachers.
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 texts. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, states also need to attend 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. For special education teachers, preparation and training must focus on managing these instructional shifts while also helping students who may have serious reading deficiencies.