Licensure Deficiencies: Colorado

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Does not meet

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Content Test Requirements: Colorado's early childhood education teachers, who are licensed to teach elementary students through age eight are not required to pass a licensing test.  Candidates can demonstrate subject-matter competence through one of the following methods:

  • A bachelor's degree or higher in the endorsement area,
  • Completion of 24 semester hours of course credit, as demonstrated through transcript evaluation, or
  • Passing a content test relevant to the subject area.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Colorado does not require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a reading assessment prior to certification or at any point thereafter to verify that candidates have been effectively trained in the science of reading instruction. In addition, in its standards for early childhood education, Colorado does not require teacher preparation programs to address the science of reading.

Informational Texts:
Colorado does not have preparation standards that address the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary text associated with college- and career-readiness standards.

Literacy Skills:
Colorado does not have teacher preparation standards that address the incorporation of literacy across all core content areas.

Struggling Readers: Colorado does not have standards that prepare teachers to identify and address the needs of struggling readers.

Citation

Recommendations for Colorado

Require early childhood teacher candidates to pass a subject-matter test designed to ensure sufficient content knowledge of all subjects.
Colorado 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. Colorado 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 teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.

Colorado should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its early childhood education teacher candidates, who are licensed to teach elementary grades, 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 elementary 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. Although Colorado's literacy standards address complex texts, these standards do not ensure teachers' ability to incorporate these texts into instruction. Colorado 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 text as well as to incorporate complex informational texts into classroom instruction.

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, Colorado should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—more specifically 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

Colorado indicated that it does require preparation programs to address the science of reading through the educator preparation rules as embedded in the elementary content standards and teacher quality standards as well as through implementation and knowledge at the preservice level of the Colorado READ Act.






How we graded

2D: Elementary Licensure Deficiencies

  • Adequate Content Knowledge: The state should ensure that all new elementary teacher candidates teaching under an early childhood license possess sufficient elementary content knowledge in all core subjects, including mathematics.
  • Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The state should ensure that all new elementary teacher candidates teaching under an early childhood license are required to pass a rigorous test of scientifically based reading instruction. 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.
  • College- and Career-Readiness Standards: The state should ensure that all new elementary teachers teaching under an early childhood license are sufficiently prepared for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction in all subject areas. Specifically,
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to incorporate informational texts of increasing complexity into instruction.
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
    • The state should ensure that these early childhood education teachers are prepared to identify and support struggling readers.
Adequate Content Knowledge
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires early childhood teachers to pass the same individually scored content tests as elementary teachers.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires early childhood teachers to pass the same content tests as elementary teachers, but the content tests are not individually scored.
Scientifically Based Reading Instruction
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires all new early childhood 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.
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 one-quarter of a point if its elementary teacher preparation tests or standards address the three components of college- and career-readiness standards. To earn credit, states must have at least one component "fully addressed" and two "partially addressed."

Research rationale

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.[1] 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,[2] states would put students at risk by not holding all elementary teachers to equivalent standards.[3] 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.[4] 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.


[1] National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, June). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Preschool
[2] 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
[3] Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; See also: Whitehurst, G. J. (2002, March). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. In White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teacher.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 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.; Willingham, D. T. (2006). How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning, and thinking. American Educator, 30(1), 30. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/spring-2006/how-knowledge-helps
[4] Torgesen, J.K. (November 2005). Preventing reading disabilities in young children: Requirements at the classroom and school level. Presented at the Western North Carolina LD/ADD Symposium.; 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