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: Tennessee's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, are required to
pass two assessments: the Praxis II Elementary Education: Content Knowledge
(5018) 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.
Tennessee allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests if they possess a bachelor's degree in a core content area.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Tennessee requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass the Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5203) test as a condition of initial licensure. Although the test framework contains the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction— phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension— they are addressed much less explicitly than in the Praxis II Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5204) test.
In its reading standards pertaining to what elementary teachers must know, Tennessee also requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.
Informational Texts: 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 Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary Education test—under the heading "reading comprehension strategies across text types"— requires teachers to know "how to select and use a variety of informational, descriptive, and persuasive materials at appropriate reading levels to promote students' comprehension of nonfiction, including content-area texts." The reading and language arts subtest of the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge 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.
Tennessee's new literacy standards address measuring text complexity and how to incorporate increasingly complex texts into instruction. For example, teacher candidates must be able to prepare students to:
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Tennessee State Board of Education Policy 5.502 Appendix A, page 18 Tennessee State Board Policy 5.504 https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/sbe/attachments/5.504_Educator_Preparation_Policy_7-28-17.pdf Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-6-3004(c)(1)
Require all early childhood candidates who are eligible to teach elementary grades to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Tennessee should require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. Although requiring a content test is a step in the right direction, the state should require separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject covered on the test, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The state's current practice of using a composite passing score offers no assurance of adequate knowledge in each subject area and therefore fails to ensure that a candidate who achieves a passing score has the necessary subject-matter knowledge to teach a particular subject area.
Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary to the analysis.
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.