Teaching Reading: District of Columbia

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.

Does not meet

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Although the District of Columbia requires elementary teacher candidates to pass the Praxis II Multiple Subjects (5001) test, which includes reading as a topic, this assessment does not generate a separate reading score and therefore does not amount to an adequate stand-alone reading test. Further, although better than previous Praxis tests, the Multiple Subjects test does not appear to be fully aligned with scientifically based reading instruction.

The District also does not require that teacher preparation programs for elementary teacher candidates address the science of reading. It has neither coursework requirements nor standards related to this critical area. 

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. Although the Multiple Subjects framework now addresses complex texts, it does so only in the context of measuring text complexity and does not address how to also incorporate increasingly complex texts into instruction.

The District of Columbia's elementary preparation program standards require candidates to be "familiar with, able to use, and recommend to students many reading materials based on different topics, themes, and a variety of situations and consisting of different types, including stories, poems, biography, non fiction, many categories of literature written for children, and texts from various subject areas." However, this does not go far enough to ensure that candidates know how to incorporate increasingly complex text into instruction.

Literacy Skills: The District of Columbia has neither assessments nor preparation standards that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.

Struggling Readers:
The District of Columbia has preparation standards that address the needs of struggling readers in the elementary education curriculum. Specifically, these competencies include preparing teachers with the ability to:

  • Identify "what preconceptions, error patterns, and misconceptions they may expect to find in students' understanding of how language functions in communication."
  • Help students "correct their misunderstandings of the development and use of language," and
  • Use "formative and summative assessments to determine the level of students' competence in their understanding of and use of language."

Citation

Recommendations for District of Columbia

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
The District of Columbia 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 assessment should clearly test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading and address all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. If the test is combined with an assessment that also tests general pedagogy or elementary content, it should report a separate 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 teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teaching candidates in the science of reading instruction.

The District of Columbia should require teacher preparation programs in the state to train candidates in scientifically based reading instruction to help ensure that all teachers are well prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom.


Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
The District of Columbia is on the right track with the Multiple Subjects test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts. However, the test framework does not appear to adequately capture all 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, the District of Columbia 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.

Support struggling readers.
The District of Columbia should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that all candidates who teach elementary grades are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. The early elementary grades are an especially important time to address reading deficiencies before students fall behind.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. In addition, with regard to scientifically based reading instruction the District of Columbia highlighted its elementary education preparation program standards which require:

  • Modeling effective use of English, including its syntax, lexicon, history, varieties, literature, and oral and written composing processes.
  • Understanding how elementary children develop and learn to read, write, speak, view, and listen effectively.
  • Teaching students to read competently and encourage students' enjoyment of reading through multiple instructional strategies, technologies, and a variety of language activities.
  • Teaching children to read with a balanced instructional program that includes an emphasis on use of letter/sound relationships (phonics), context (semantic and syntactic), and text that has meaning for students.

With regard to literacy skills, the District of Columbia cited its Organizational Standards for Educator Preparation Programs, which include competencies for candidates in the following:
  • Teach students a variety of strategies to monitor their own reading comprehension. 
  • Encourage elementary students' understanding of their individual responses to what they read and sharing those responses. 
  • Help students think critically about what they read.
  • Provide both instruction in and opportunities for elementary students to develop effective writing and speaking skills so that they can communicate their knowledge, ideas, understanding, insights, feelings, and experiences to other students and to parents, teachers, and other adults.
  • Provide their students with many different writing and speaking experiences in order to teach the skills of writing and speaking.
  • Enable students to explore the uses of different types of writing and speaking with different audiences and in different situations.
  • Help students develop their capacities to listen so that they understand, consider, respond to, and discuss spoken material, including non-fiction, stories, and poems.

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