Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: Texas

2013 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: Texas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TX-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Reading-Instruction-20

Analysis of Texas's policies

Texas requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass its general subject-matter test, the Texas Examination of Educator Standards, which does not report subscores for each individual area. Although the reading portion addresses all five components of scientifically based reading instruction, it is combined with English language arts, with the two subjects comprising only about 32 percent of the entire assessment. Therefore, it is possible to answer many of the reading questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

In its standards for elementary teacher preparation, Texas does require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. In addition, the state also requires elementary teacher candidates to take six semester credit hours of upper-division coursework in reading.

Citation

Recommendations for Texas

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Texas 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.

State response to our analysis

Texas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that recent legislation now requires that for the issuance of a generalist license, a satisfactory level of performance must be earned in each core subject (math, English language arts, science and social studies) covered by the exam. Texas asserted that the likelihood of passing the English language arts portion of the exam while missing a substantial number of questions on the science of reading would be less than it would have been when passing each core subject section was not required.  Failure to pass the English language arts portion of the exam will result in failure to pass the exam as a whole.

How we graded

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, still caught up in the reading wars, 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, 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 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 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.

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).