Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: West Virginia requires all elementary 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 Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5204) test.
In its coursework requirements for elementary teacher preparation programs, West Virginia also requires programs to address the science of reading. Elementary teacher candidates must take nine credit hours of reading, which include a focus on the components of scientifically based reading, as well as how to assess students' reading ability and how to identify and correct reading difficulties.
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. The Teaching Reading test—under the heading "reading comprehension strategies across text types"—requires teachers to know "how to select and use a variety of informational, descriptive, and persuasive materials at appropriate reading levels to promote students' comprehension of nonfiction, including content-area texts." 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: West Virginia has no requirements for the preparation of elementary teachers that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: West Virginia's Teaching Reading: Elementary Education test addresses the needs of struggling readers by requiring candidates to know "how diagnostic reading data are used to differentiate instruction to address the needs of students with difficulties."
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Title 126 Legislative Rules, Board of Education, Series 114, Policy 5100, 6.3.d.1 Title 126 Legislative Rules, Board of Education, Series 136, Policy 5202 Appendix B West Virginia Board Rule 277-504
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 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 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.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
West Virginia is on the right track with its Teaching Reading: Elementary Education test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts. However, the framework does not appear to adequately 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, West Virginia 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.
West Virginia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
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.