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: South Dakota only requires its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, to pass the Praxis II Education of Young Children (5024) test, which may assess pedagogy but is not an adequate measure of subject-matter knowledge.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, South Dakota 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: South Dakota's preparation and licensure requirements for early childhood education teachers are not aligned with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. The Education of Young Children test incorporates some of the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. The test requires that a teacher knows "how to develop children's ability to comprehend literature, informational texts, and other types of texts." Teachers must also know "scaffolding strategies to support children's progress toward independent reading toward the high end of their text complexity band (e.g., providing access to grade-level texts, purposeful grouping)."
Literacy Skills: The Education of Young Children (5024) test only 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: South Dakota has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address struggling readers.
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
As a condition of initial licensure, South Dakota should require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a content test with separate passing scores for each of the core subject areas, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
South Dakota 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.
Although South Dakota's elementary content addresses some knowledge of informational texts, the framework does not appear to capture the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. South Dakota is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as to incorporate complex informational texts 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, South Dakota 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.
Support struggling readers.
South Dakota should articulate more specific requirements ensuring 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.
South Dakota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
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.