Teaching Reading: Tennessee

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Tennessee 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 II Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5204) test.

Tennessee allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests if they possess a bachelor's degree in a core content area.

In its reading standards pertaining to what elementary teachers must know, Tennessee also requires teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.

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 Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary Education 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." The reading and language arts subtest of the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge test includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with these standards.

Tennessee's new literacy standards address measuring text complexity and how to incorporate increasingly complex texts into instruction. For example, teacher candidates must be able to prepare students to:

  • Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently recognize various text structures and employ specific comprehension strategies based on the unique demands of the text structure and organization.
  • Produce texts representing a range of text types (genre) and complexity for different purposes and audiences.
  • Analyze texts for complexity, quality, and alignment to instructional goals and student readiness; select a wide range of appropriately complex texts.
  • Engage and support students in reading a wide range of complex texts in print, digital, and multiple media.
Literacy Skills: In its standards for elementary teachers, Tennessee requires candidates to "teach reading within the context of every subject area in such manner as to build vocabulary, background knowledge and strong comprehension strategies." In addition, new literacy standard require elementary candidates to be able to prepare students to:
  • Integrate foundational skills and strategies within authentic reading and writing contexts.
  • Make connections to reading and writing across the disciplines.
Struggling Readers: Tennessee'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." Teacher preparation standards also require candidates to be able to "differentiate good readers from poor readers in light of those characteristics and apply that knowledge to effective intervention strategies for all readers." 

The state's literacy standards also require candidates to be able to:
  • Provide differentiated instruction that supports students' strengths while addressing their instructional needs. 
  • Describe how literacy assessment connects to and supports planning appropriate and differentiated instruction within the classroom and within the RTI framework.
  • Select and implement literacy assessment and evaluation tools appropriately and for different purposes (e.g., screening, diagnostic, curriculum based, progress monitoring, formative or benchmark, and summative or outcome) to inform literacy instruction and intervention.
Tennessee defines dyslexia as a "specific learning disability" and requires K-12 educators to receive training for teaching students with dyslexia "using appropriate scientific research and brain-based multi-sensory intervention methods and strategies."

Citation

Recommendations for Tennessee

Monitor new reading assessment to ensure adequacy and rigor.
Tennessee 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, Tennessee 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, Tennessee should also evaluate its passing score to make certain it reflects a high standard of performance.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis.


How we graded

2C: Teaching Elementary Reading

  • Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The state should require all elementary teacher candidates to pass a rigorous elementary test of scientifically based reading instruction in order to attain licensure. The design of the test should ensure that prospective teachers cannot pass without knowing the five scientifically based components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The state should require that all teacher preparation programs prepare elementary candidates in the science of reading instruction.
  • College- and Career-Readiness Standards: The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers are sufficiently prepared for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction in all subject areas. Specifically,
    • The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational texts of increasing complexity into instruction.
    • The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
    • The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers are prepared to identify and support struggling readers.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction
Three-quarters of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it requires all new elementary teachers to pass a rigorous test of scientifically based reading instruction. The design of the test must ensure that all prospective teachers are competent in the five research-based components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. A stand-alone English/Language Arts (ELA) content test must be primarily focused on scientifically based reading instruction to earn credit.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if elementary teacher preparation standards address the five components of scientifically based reading instruction, but the state does not require an adequate - or any - scientifically based reading instruction test.
College- and Career-Readiness Standards
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn the one-quarter of a point if its elementary teacher preparation tests or standards address the requirements of college- and career-readiness standards. To earn credit, the state must have at least one requirement (outlined in component three) "fully addressed" and two "partially addressed."


Research rationale

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]


[1] Walsh, K., Glaser, D., & Wilcox, D. D. (2006). What education schools aren't teaching about reading and what elementary teachers aren't learning. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf; Torgesen, J.K. (2005, November). Preventing reading disabilities in young children: Requirements at the classroom and school level. Presented at the Western North Carolina LD/ADD Symposium. Retrieved from http://www.fcrr.org/science/pdf/torgesen/NC-interventions.pdf
[2] National Reading Panel (US), National Institute of Child Health, & Human Development (US). (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/Documents/report.pdf; To review further indications of the affirmation of the previously-mentioned research, see: Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C. A., Dimino, J., ... & Keating, B. (2016). Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade: Educator's practice guide (NCEE 2016-4008). National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/wwc_foundationalreading_040717.pdf
[3] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245; To review past TPR materials on teacher prep programs: Walsh, K., Glaser, D., & Wilcox, D. D. (2006). What education schools aren't teaching about reading and what elementary teachers aren't learning. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf
[4] For problems with many existing reading tests, see: Stotsky, S. (2006). Why American students do not learn to read very well: The unintended consequences of Title II and teacher testing. Third Education Group Review, 2(2), 1-37.; Rigden, D. (2006). Report on licensure alignment with the essential components of effective reading instruction. National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Reading First Teacher Education Network.
[5] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_eseaReauthorization.pdf
[6] Student Achievement Partners. (2015). Research supporting the Common Core ELA/literacy shifts and standards. Retrieved from https://achievethecore.org/content/upload/Research%20Supporting%20the%20ELA%20Standards%20and%20Shifts%20Final.pdf