Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading
Instruction: Georgia

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers 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.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Georgia's policies

Elementary teachers in Georgia are required to pass the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) Early Childhood Education Assessment. This test addresses the science of reading and is divided into subtests, but because the reading questions are combined with other topics without a specific reading subscore, it does not amount to a stand alone reading test. 

In its standards for elementary education teacher preparation, Georgia does require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading. 

Elementary teacher candidates must be prepared for the key instructional shifts related to literacy that differentiate college- and career-readiness standards from their predecessors. According to the testing framework, teachers must know ways to "promote students' comprehension of informational text and literature and to integrate knowledge and ideas."

Georgia's reading standards for elementary teachers require the following:

  • Candidates plan with other teachers and personnel in designing, adjusting and modifying the curriculum to meet students' needs in traditional print, digital and online contexts
  • Candidates differentiate instructional approaches to meet students' reading and writing needs in all content areas
  • Candidates use a wide range of texts (e.g., narrative, expository poetry) from traditional print, digital and online resources.
However, these standards are not adequate to ensure that teachers are sufficiently prepared for the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.

Neither test frameworks nor standards address the incorporation of literacy skills across all core content areas.

Georgia's elementary content test indirectly addresses struggling readers by requiring that a teacher "knows how to apply developmentally appropriate pedagogical practices for planning curriculum, designing instruction, and evaluating student progress in reading and language arts."

With regard to struggling readers, the state's reading standards require the following:
  • Candidates select or develop appropriate assessment tools to monitor student progress and to analyze instructional effectiveness
  • Candidates collaborate with other teachers and personnel to discuss interpretation of assessment data and their uses in responding to student needs and strengths
  • Candidates use assessment data to evaluate students' responses to instruction and to develop relevant next steps for teaching
  • Candidates collaborate with other professionals to modify instruction and to plan and evaluate interventions based on assessment data.


Recommendations for Georgia

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Georgia should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. The state is on the right track in assessing elementary teachers' knowledge of the science of reading. However, to clearly test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading, the test must not only adequately address the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension—but it should also report a subscore for the science of reading specifically. Elementary teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.

Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Neither the framework for Georgia's elementary content test nor the state's reading standards for teachers adequately capture the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. The state should therefore ensure that all elementary candidates have the ability to not only build content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts but also to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.

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, Georgia 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.

State response to our analysis

Georgia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Research rationale

Reading science has identified five components of effective instruction.
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. By routinely applying in the classroom the lessons learned from the scientific findings, most reading failure can be avoided. 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. NCTQ's reports 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 2013 and 2014, have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading. 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 a license 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 a 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. 
Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction: Supporting Research
For evidence on what new teachers are not learning about reading instruction, see NCTQ, "What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning" 2006) at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf.

For problems with existing reading tests, see S. Stotsky, "Why American Students Do Not Learn to Read Very Well: The Unintended Consequences of Title II and Teacher Testing," Third Education Group Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2006; and D. W. Rigden, Report on Licensure Alignment with the Essential Components of Effective Reading Instruction (Washington, D.C.: Reading First Teacher Education Network, 2006). 

For information on where states set passing scores on elementary level content tests for teacher licensing across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.