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: West Virginia requires its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 3, to pass the Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) assessment, which may assess pedagogy but is not an adequate measure of subject-matter knowledge.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: West Virginia requires all early childhood teacher candidates to pass the Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5203) test as a condition of initial licensure. Although the test framework contains the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, they are addressed much less explicitly than in the Praxis II Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5204) test.
Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
West Virginia 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, West Virginia 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.
Monitor new reading assessment to ensure adequacy and rigor.
West Virginia should monitor its assessment to make sure it is a rigorous and appropriate measure of teachers' knowledge of and skill in scientifically based early reading instruction, as the track record of Praxis assessments in this regard is mixed at best. Specifically, West Virginia should re-evaluate its use of the Praxis II Teaching Reading (5203) assessment. A more rigorous and appropriate measure of teachers' knowledge of and skill in scientifically based early reading instruction is the Praxis II Teaching Reading (5204) assessment. To ensure that the test is meaningful, West Virginia should also evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance.
West Virginia indicated that Reading Content in Teacher Preparation outlines requirements regarding the science of reading.
In addition, the state noted that its Policy 5100 is under revision and in a 30 day comment period. The revisions include proposed language that outlines the criteria for effective reading and literacy instruction, particularly prescribed in special education programs of study, both elementary and secondary. (For more analysis on state's reading requirements, please see "Teaching Reading")
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.