Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: South Carolina

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.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SC-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction-69

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

Although South Carolina requires elementary teacher candidates to pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test, which includes reading as a topic, this assessment does not generate a separate reading score and therefore does not amount to an adequate stand alone reading test. Further, although better than previous Praxis tests, the Multiple Subjects test does not appear to be fully aligned with scientifically based reading instruction.

South Carolina requires that teacher preparation programs for elementary teacher candidates address the science of reading. Beginning in the Fall 2016, all elementary teacher candidates will be required to complete a 12 credit-hour sequence in literacy that includes "comprehension, oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary." 

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 reading and language arts subtest of the Multiple Subjects test includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with these standards. The state's new literacy competencies for grades PreK-5 require teachers to be able to "use knowledge of text complexity and student interests to match books to readers and help students select texts with which they will be successful."

With regards to the incorporation of literacy skills in the core content areas, South Carolina's literacy competencies states;  "Connecting inquiry through the integration of Social Studies, Science, and Math, with literacy instruction leads students to build knowledge and emphasizing collaborative learning fosters independence and self-initiation in reading and learning." The state then lists competencies for teachers to meet those standards.

New coursework requirements require teacher preparation programs to "ensure that all teacher candidates are skilled in diagnosing a child's reading problems and are capable of providing an effective intervention."  


Recommendations for South Carolina

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.

South Carolina should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its elementary teacher 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. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
South Carolina's adoption of the new Multiple Subjects test is a step in the right direction. However, the testing framework does not adequately capture all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. South Carolina is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all elementary candidates have the ability to incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.

State response to our analysis

South Carolina was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis.

South Carolina also stated that disciplinary literacy is a primary focus of the state's recently adopted College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Arts 2015 for students PreK-12. These standards guide teachers so that students will appropriately employ a “variety of strategies to discern the meaning of increasingly complex texts and other modes of communication to form logical, evidence-based conclusions.”

In addition, South Carolina noted that state and district reading plans required under Read to Succeed must provide professional development to teachers to ensure that they are able to support students in discipline-specific literacy, defined in statute as “the ability to read, write, listen, and speak across various disciplines and content areas including, but not limited to, English/language arts, science, mathematics, social studies, physical education, health, the arts, and career and technology education.”

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.