Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction : Oregon

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction : Oregon results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OR-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction--6

Analysis of Oregon's policies

In its testing framework for elementary teacher preparation, Oregon requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. All elementary teacher candidates must pass the ORELA Multiple Subject Examination, which includes the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. While the state's test includes the components of scientifically based reading instruction in Subtest 1, the breadth of the topics covered on the exam makes it possible to pass this exam without correctly answering questions on the science of reading.

Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of the subject-matter requirement.

Citation

Recommendations for Oregon

Ensure that the state's reading assessment adequately measures skills related to the science of reading instruction.
Although Oregon is commended for requiring teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading, the state should require an assessment that reports a subscore for the science of reading specifically. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.

Require all teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Oregon should reconsider its allowance of a test waiver. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in the area of the science of reading should not be eligible for licensure.

State response to our analysis

Oregon noted that in the 2010-2011 academic year, only eight new program completers out of 1,903 obtained first licensure through alternative assessment. These candidates must show comprehensive coursework, a GPA of 3.0 or better and evidence that some of the coursework was completed recently. 

How we graded

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. While elementary teachers need to be well versed in these components, even secondary teachers need at least some knowledge of this process, particularly if they work in high-poverty schools.

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, still caught up in the reading wars, resist teaching scientifically based reading instruction. NCTQ's report What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning found that only 15 percent of teacher preparation programs in a national sample were providing even minimal exposure to the science of reading. Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must ensure that their preparation programs graduate only teacher candidates who know how to teach children to read.

Most current reading tests do not offer assurance that teachers know the science of reading.

A few states, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, have developed 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.

Research rationale

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 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) at: 
http://www.tegr.org/Review/Articles/vol2/v2n2.pdf.

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).