Early Childhood: New York

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs 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.

Meets in part

Analysis of New York's policies

New York requires early childhood education candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades through grade 2, to pass an early childhood multi-subject test, which is comprised of three separately scored subtests.

The assessment contains a separately scored English language arts/literacy section, and amounts to a standalone reading test.

New York's framework for its NYSTCE Multi-Subjects Test: Teachers of Early Childhood assessment includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.  The test framework addresses "text complexity and instruction in text comprehension" and outlines the following performance indicators:

  • Demonstrates understanding of how emergent text comprehension relates to comprehension skills that are the focus of instruction in later grades and to essential college- and career-readiness text-comprehension skills
  • Demonstrates understanding of the role of asking a range of cognitively complex questions that require students to respond using text-based evidence
  • Applies knowledge of quantitative tools and measures for evaluating text complexity.
Multi-subject test does not address the incorporation of literacy skills across core content areas.

However, the test framework does addresses struggling readers with the following performance indicator: "selects and describes accurately and appropriately effective strategies, activities, or interventions to address a student's identified need ... in reading, writing, listening, speaking, language knowledge and conventions, and/or vocabulary acquisition."


Recommendations for New York

Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects. 
Although New York is on the right track by administering a three-part licensing test, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas, the state is encouraged to further strengthen its policy and require separate, meaningful passing scores for each subject on its multi-subject test.

Ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.

Support implementation of new state standards. 

Although New York's testing framework for its early childhood content test is commendable, the state is encouraged to strengthen its policy by making certain that there is a common understanding that the new college- and career-readiness standards require challenging students with texts of increasing complexity and may require shifts in what has been traditionally considered "developmentally appropriate." 

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, New York 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

New York stated that The Multi-Subject CST is not the only test Early Childhood Education candidates must pass that measures their skills and knowledge of literacy instruction. The state also requires the edTPA for Early Childhood. The purpose of edTPA Early Childhood, a nationally available performance-based assessment, is to measure novice teachers' readiness to teach young children ages 3-8.

New York reiterated that the multiple subject test separately tests math, general education and science, and candidates must pass each, which has its own "cut score."

New York then described the requirements for the edTPA for Early Childhood test. Candidates must:

  • Develop consecutive learning experiences that build on each other and are to be presented over the course of one week
  • Demonstrate instruction that promotes language and literacy development that occurs across disciplinary contexts
  • Develop learning experiences that include developmentally appropriate practices that promote the active and multimodal nature of young children's learning and intentional support for language and literacy development in an interdisciplinary context
  • Provide instruction that is expected to attend to the interrelated processes of listening, speaking, reading, writing and visually representing in a learning environment that supports the whole child and provides a healthy, respectful, supportive and challenging context for learning.

New York indicated that the state's Common Core Learning Standards, including New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards, provide a framework that focuses on the learning and development of the whole child and includes the broad academic concepts of the newly adopted New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy, as well as for Mathematics. The New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards also aligned with the existing New York State K-12 learning standards in science, social studies and the arts. According to the state, these Learning Standards are systemically aligned with New York State Common Core Learning standards, performance indicators for bilingual and preschool special education, Head Start outcomes and the National Association for the Education of Young Children guidelines.

New York also described the efforts to assist the state's public higher education institutions with assimilating the new information on teaching and learning, including the incorporation and implementation of the CCSS into their programs. Race to the Top funding was used to provide $10 million total to SUNY, CUNY, and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and in 2013, an additional $1.5 million was spent on faculty professional development.

New York also indicated that it has provided a wealth of resources to support practicing teachers, teaching candidates and teacher preparation programs with the implementation of the CCSS.

How we graded

Research rationale

Early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades must be ready for the demands of the elementary classroom.
Thirty-eight states have early childhood licenses that include some elementary classroom grades, usually up to grade three. Yet most of these states set a lower bar for teacher subject-matter knowledge for these early childhood licenses than they do for their more standard elementary licenses. Given the focus on content knowledge and building vocabulary in college- and career-readiness standards, states are putting 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 science is especially critical for early childhood teachers. 
While some states fail to ensure that any elementary teachers know the reading science on how to teach young children to read, it is incomprehensible that there are states that set an even lower bar for early childhood teachers than for teachers who can teach elementary grades on an early childhood license. Research is clear that the best defense against reading failure is effective early reading instruction. If such licenses do not put even more emphasis on the needs of the early elementary classroom, of which learning to read is paramount, one questions what purpose they serve at all.

Early Childhood Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research, Volume 73, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1960s? Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review, Volume 14, No. 1, March 1995, pp. 1-21.

Research also connects individual content knowledge with increased reading comprehension, making the capacity of the teacher to infuse all instruction with content of particular importance for student achievement. See Willingham, D. T., "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning—and thinking," American Educator, Volume 30, No. 1, Spring 2006.

For the importance of teachers' general academic ability, see R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation Volume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498; L. Hedges, R. Laine and R. Greenwald, "An Exchange: Part I: Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Student Outcomes," Educational Researcher, Volume 23, No. 3 April 1994, pp. 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," The American Economic Review Volume 61, No. 2, May 1971, pp. 280-288; E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research, Volume 66, Fall 1996, pp. 397-409; H. Levin, "Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, eds. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner, 1976, pp. 149-198; D. Monk, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 2, June 1994, pp. 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record, Volume 84, No. 3, 1983, pp. 564-569; R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner-City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research Volume 10, No. 1, March 1981, pp. 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record, Volume 80, No. 1,1978, pp. 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies," Economics of Education Review, Volume 5, No. 1, 1986, pp. 41-48; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

Sandra Stotsky has documented the fact that teacher candidates often make inappropriate or irrelevant coursework choices that nonetheless satisfy state requirements. See S. Stotsky with L. Haverty, "Can a State Department of Education Increase Teacher Quality? Lessons Learned in Massachusetts," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy: 2004, ed. Diane Ravitch (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004).

On the need for colleges and universities to improve their general education coursework requirements, see The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2004). For a subject-specific example of institutions' failure to deliver solid liberal arts preparation see, The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).

For information on teacher licensing tests, see The Academic Quality of Prospective Teachers: The Impact of Admissions and Licensure Testing (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1999). A study by C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J.Vigdor of elementary teachers in North Carolina also found that teachers with test scores one standard deviation above the mean on the Elementary Education Test as well as a test of content was associated with increased student achievement of 0.011 to 0.015 standard deviations. "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" The Calder Institute (2007).

For information on where states set passing scores on teacher licensing tests 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 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.