The state should ensure that new teachers who are licensed to teach elementary grades under an early childhood license demonstrate sufficient content knowledge in all core subjects and know the science of reading instruction. This goal has been revised since 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Washington only requires its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, to pass the National Evaluation Series (NES) Early Childhood Education test, which may assess pedagogy but is not an adequate measure of subject-matter knowledge.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Washington 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. However, the state's early childhood competencies address these components.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Washington should require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a content test with separate passing scores for each of the core subject areas, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Although the state requires appropriate testing for elementary teachers teaching on an elementary certificate, Washington creates a significant loophole by not holding early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades to the same requirements. The state's current practice of allowing teachers up through grade 3 to teach without ever having passed a content test is particularly worrisome and should be amended.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Washington 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.
Washington indicated that NES evaluates candidates' subject matter knowledge in domains 5 and 6. Therefore, the state believes it should partially meet this goal.
2D: Elementary Licensure Requirements
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.