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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: As a condition of initial licensure, Washington requires elementary teacher candidates to pass an assessment that measures knowledge of scientifically based reading instruction. The state's National Evaluation Series (NES) elementary content subtest 1 addresses the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
In its standards for elementary teacher preparation, Washington does require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.
Informational Texts: Elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. Elementary teachers in Washington are required to pass the NES Elementary Education test. Its framework for the reading and English language arts domain requires teachers to "understand literary, informational, persuasive, and functional texts, and graphic sources." It then includes standards that begin to incorporate the instructional shifts in the use of text associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for student, for example: "Demonstrate knowledge of the characteristics and features of various types of informational, persuasive, and functional texts and strategies for promoting students' comprehension of various types of texts and analysis of text structure." Also, Washington's competencies for elementary teachers require that teachers "understand and articulate a wide range of strategies used to comprehend, analyze, interpret, and evaluate a wide variety of literary and expository texts."
Literacy Skills: Washington has no requirements for the preparation of elementary teachers that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: Washington's elementary competencies also address struggling readers. Teachers must be able to demonstrate understanding of:
Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Washington has taken a step in the right direction with its adoption of the NES elementary test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts. However, the framework does not appear to capture the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. The state is therefore 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.
To ensure that elementary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Washington should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.
Washington stated that the current NES general elementary content test entails all five components of early reading instruction in its testing framework.
2C: Teaching Elementary Reading
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, identifying five components of effective instruction. In fact, most reading failure can be avoided by routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings in the classroom. 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. Reports by NCTQ 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 2016 have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading, although the most recent Teacher Prep Review did find signs of improvement. 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 licenses 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 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.