Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Rhode Island's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach through grade 2, have two options for fulfilling content test requirements. The first option requires candidates to pass the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test, which does not report separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science, or social studies, and the Education of Young Children (5024) test, which is not a content test. The second option requires candidates to pass the Elementary Education:
Multiple Subjects (5001) test and the Principles of Learning: K-6 pedagogy test. Only the Multiple Subjects 5001 test reports separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science, and social studies.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Rhode Island 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.
Informational Texts: Rhode Island's early childhood test options incorporate some of the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. For example, the Early Childhood Education test addresses both the use of informational texts and text complexity. With regard to the incorporation of informational text of increasing complexity, teachers are required to know how to: "explain factors that contribute to text complexity (e.g., vocabulary, sentence complexity, images) [and] select appropriate texts for readers at various levels."
Literacy Skills: The Education of Young Children test also vaguely addresses literacy skills in other core areas by requiring a teacher to know "strategies to integrate literacy into the content areas (e.g., mathematics, social studies, science, and the arts)."
Struggling Readers: Rhode Island's standards require teachers to be able to "make appropriate accommodations and modifications for individual students who have identified learning differences or needs in a ... Personal Literacy Plan." However, these standards do not go far enough to ensure that teachers are fully prepared to identify and support struggling readers.
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Requirements for Early Childhood Certificate http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Certification/Cert-Requirements/RI_EarlyChildhood_Requirements.pdf Professional Teaching Standards http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Certification/Cert-main-page/RIPTS-with-preamble.pdf
Ensure that early childhood education teachers are adequately prepared to teach at the
Rhode Island should require all early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades, to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. By offering early education childhood candidates the option of taking either the Elementary Education Multiple Subjects test or the Early Childhood Education test, which does not require separate passing scores for each subject area, Rhode Island does not ensure that these candidates will be prepared to teach all the required content of the elementary grades they are licensed to teach. Rhode Island should strengthen its policy and hold all early childhood education candidates to appropriate content standards, either by requiring the same test as required for other elementary teachers or a comparably rigorous one specific to early childhood teachers.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Rhode Island 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.
Only one of Rhode Island's test options fully captures all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. The state is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades, have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text 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, Rhode Island should more specifically include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in all core subjects. This could be accomplished either through testing frameworks or teacher standards.
Support struggling readers.
Rhode Island should articulate more specific requirements to ensure 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.
Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was update subsequent to the state's review.
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.