The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction.
Although Vermont requires elementary teacher candidates to pass the Praxis II Multiple Subjects test, which includes reading as a topic, this assessment does not generate a separate reading score and, therefore, does not amount to an adequate stand-alone reading test. Further, although better than previous Praxis tests, the Multiple Subjects test does not appear to be fully aligned with scientifically based reading instruction.
In its standards for elementary teacher preparation, Vermont does require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. Programs must provide training in the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Supplement A (5440) to the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Education Manual of Rules
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Vermont should also require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment to ensure that they are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.
Vermont recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state pointed out that its elementary endorsement requirements are being revised to include more specificity with regard to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Vermont noted, however, that its requirements are competency based, which means that it does not dictate credit hours or mandate coursework requirements. The state added that the early childhood endorsement will soon require a Praxis test because it is being revised to align with the elementary endorsement and incorporate the CCSS. The early childhood endorsement overlaps with the elementary endorsement and HQT status is contingent on ECE candidates passing the Praxis II exam.
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).