2017 Elementary Teacher Preparation 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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Montana offers an early childhood education license that covers age three through grade 3. The state does not require content tests as a condition of initial licensure.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: As a condition of initial licensure, Montana does not require its early childhood candidates to pass a reading test addressing the five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Informational Texts: Montana has neither teacher standards nor testing requirements that ensure a teacher's ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction
Literacy Skills: Montana has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address the incorporation of literacy skills into the core content areas.
Struggling Readers: Montana has no requirements for the preparation of early childhood education teachers that address the needs of struggling readers.
Montana Administrative Rules 10.57.102; 410; 412 and 10.58. 501; 531
Ensure that early childhood education teachers are adequately prepared to teach at the elementary level.
Montana should require all early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades, to pass an elementary content test appropriately aligned with its college- and career-readiness standards. Montana should require a subject-matter test that includes separate, meaningful passing scores for each core subject, including reading/language arts, math, science and social studies.
Require all early childhood teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Montana should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood education 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 subscore for the science of reading specifically. Early childhood teachers who do not possess the minimum knowledge in this area should not be eligible for licensure.
Ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction. Montana's early childhood test does not adequately capture all the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. Montana is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as to incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.
Montana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
2D: Elementary Licensure Deficiencies
Early childhood teachers who teach elementary grades must be ready for the demands of the elementary classroom. Many states have early childhood licenses that include some elementary classroom grades, usually up to grade three. Because teachers with this early childhood license can still teach many elementary grades, they should not be held to a lower bar for subject-matter knowledge than if they held more standard elementary licenses. Given the focus on building students' content knowledge and vocabulary in college- and career-readiness standards, states would put 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 instruction is especially critical for early childhood teachers. Although some states do not ensure that any elementary teachers know the science of how to teach young children to read, in the states where this is a priority, it is inexcusable to hold elementary teachers on an early childhood license to a lower standard. Research is clear that the best defense against reading failure is effective early reading instruction. Therefore, if such licenses are neglecting to meet the needs of the early elementary classroom, of which learning to read is paramount, they are failing to meet one of their most fundamental purposes.