2017 Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Utah's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach through grade 3, have two options for fulfilling content test requirements. Candidates can have the option of taking the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test which reports separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science or social studies, or the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test, which only reports a composite score in the core content areas.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction:
As a condition of initial licensure, Utah 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.
Ensure that early childhood education teachers are adequately prepared to teach at the elementary level.
Utah should require all early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades, to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. By offering early education childhood candidates the option of taking either the Elementary Education Multiple Subjects test or the Early Childhood Education test, which does not require separate passing scores for each subject area, Utah does not ensure that these candidates will be prepared to teach all the required content of the elementary grades they are licensed to teach. Utah should strengthen its policy and hold all early childhood education candidates to appropriate content standards, either by requiring the same test as required for other elementary teachers or a comparably rigorous one specific to early childhood teachers.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Utah 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.
Utah recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. However this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
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.