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: Wisconsin requires all early childhood candidates to pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Content
Knowledge (5018) test,
which does not report separate subscores in the core content areas of language arts, math, science or social studies.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Wisconsin requires all teacher candidates teaching grades K-5 to pass the Foundations of Reading test objectives, including all five components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Informational Texts: Wisconsin's elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. The Foundations of Reading assessment requires teachers to "understand how to apply reading comprehension skills and strategies to informational/expository texts." The framework then offers an extensive list of examples for achieving this competency. However, these test standards do not go far enough to ensure that candidates are fully prepared to incorporate increasingly complex text into instruction.
Literacy Skills: The Foundations of Reading assessment requires teachers to demonstrate "strategies for promoting comprehension across the curriculum by expanding knowledge of academic language, including conventions of standard English grammar and usage, differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English, general academic vocabulary, and content-area vocabulary." However, this is just one example under the broad test objective heading of "Understand vocabulary development."
Struggling Readers: Regarding struggling readers, Wisconsin's Foundations of Reading test requires the following:
Require all early childhood candidates who are eligible to teach elementary grades to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Wisconsin should require all early childhood education teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. Although requiring a content test is a step in the right direction, the state should require separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject covered on the test, including reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The state's current practice of using a composite passing score offers no assurance of adequate knowledge in each subject area and therefore fails to ensure that a candidate who achieves a passing score has the necessary subject-matter knowledge to teach a particular subject area.
Ensure that the science of reading test is meaningful.
To ensure that its science of reading test is meaningful, Wisconsin should evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance.
Ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although Wisconsin is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Wisconsin is encouraged to make certain its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all elementary candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.
Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Although Wisconsin is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses literacy skills, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Wisconsin is encouraged to make certain that its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all special education candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject into classroom instruction.
Support Struggling Readers.
Although Wisconsin is on the right track with its requirements of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses the use of assessments and strategies to support struggling readers, the coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Wisconsin is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to identify as well as support struggling readers.
Wisconsin asserted that the state's reading test requirement should net Wisconsin a "meets this goal in part" goal score.
For a description of grading on Goal 2-D: Licensure Deficiencies, please see the information in the "How We Graded" section, below.
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.