Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: Texas

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 in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). 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-69

Analysis of Texas's policies

Texas's Core Subjects EC-6 (291) examination addresses the science of reading and is divided into subtests, but because the reading questions are combined with other topics without a specific reading subscore, it does not amount to a stand alone reading test.

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

Elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. Texas's required competencies for elementary teachers include the following standards that incorporate some of the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with college- and career-readiness standards for students. Texas's English language arts and reading standards require that a beginning teacher has the following:

  • Comprehension skills and strategies for understanding and interpreting different types of written materials, including narratives, expository texts, technical writing and content-area textbooks
  • Skills in how to interpret and evaluate information presented in various formats (e.g., maps, tables and graphs).
Accompanying application standards articulate that new teachers are required to "provide instruction in how to use graphics (e.g., tables, charts, and signs) and other informational texts and technologies (e.g., the Internet) to acquire information."

Although the state's new Core Subjects EC-6 content assessment does not mention informational texts specifically, its competencies require skills related to various expository texts.

Texas's educator preparation curriculum must include "reading instruction, including instruction that improves students' content-area literacy." The state's teacher standards require that "teachers promote literacy and the academic language within the discipline and make discipline-specific language accessible to all learners."

Regarding struggling readers, Texas's standards require beginning teachers to know and understand "how to use assessment to determine when a student needs additional help or intervention to bring the student's performance to grade level, based on state content and performance standards for reading, writing, listening, and speaking that comprise the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)." The state's elementary content test also addresses the needs of struggling readers.


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 state is on the right track in assessing elementary teachers' knowledge of the science of reading. However, to clearly test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading, the test must not only adequately address the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension— but it should also 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.

Although Texas's competencies and testing standards address informational and expository texts, the state is encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all elementary candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.

Texas has taken a step in the right direction addressing literacy in its educator preparation curriculum requirements and teacher standards. However, to ensure that elementary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, the state should expand upon these requirements and specifically include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

State response to our analysis

Texas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.  The state added that reviews of the educator standards upon which the certification examinations are based are an ongoing activity. Proposed changes to the Core Subjects EC-6 examination have been discussed with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and were scheduled to be discussed again in October 2015. The anticipated effective date of proposed changes will depend on the extent of the changes.

Texas added that recommendations for proposed changes to the educator standards in the classroom teacher certificate class will be made by a classroom teacher advisory committee that is scheduled to be formed by the SBEC in October 2015. The anticipated effective date of proposed changes will depend on the recommendations from this advisory committee.

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.