Teaching Reading: Illinois

2017 Special Education Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that special education teachers know the science of reading instruction and are fully prepared for the instructional shifts related to literacy associated with college-and career-readiness standards. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Scientifically Based Reading Instruction—Tests and Standards: Illinois does not require its special education teachers who teach the elementary grades to pass a rigorous test of reading instruction.  The state also does not require teacher preparation programs to prepare special education candidates in the principles of scientifically based reading instruction. Illinois has neither coursework requirements nor standards related to this critical area.

Informational Texts: All teachers are required to complete coursework in "methods of reading and reading in the content area." This coursework must address:

  • "the construction of meaning through the interactions of the reader's background knowledge and experiences, the information in the text and the purpose of the reading situation; [and]
  • the design, selection, modification and evaluation of a wide range of materials for the content areas and the reading needs of the student."


Literacy Skills: Illinois's standards for all teachers articulate that a "competent teacher has in-depth understanding of content area knowledge that includes central concepts, methods of inquiry, structures of the disciplines, and content area literacy" and requires that the teacher "applies and adapts an array of content area literacy strategies to make all subject matter accessible to each student."

Coursework requirements for all teachers must also address:

  • "varied instructional approaches used before, during, and after reading, including those that develop word knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and strategy used in the content areas
  • the relationships among reading, writing and oral communication and understanding how to integrate these components to increase content learning; [and]
  • varied instructional approaches that develop word knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and strategy use in the content areas."


Struggling Readers:
Regarding struggling readers, the (ILTS) test requires that teachers be able to do the following:
  • Understand methods for assessing literacy development and models of reading diagnosis
  • Understand processes for implementing reading instruction for students with learning difficulties related to literacy.
Illinois's standards for all teachers also articulate that a competent teacher "selects, modifies and uses a wide range of printed, visual, or auditory materials, and online resources appropriate to the content areas and the reading needs and levels of each student (including English Learners, and struggling and advanced readers)." Additionally, the state's coursework standards require that candidates know a "variety of formal and informal assessments to recognize and address the reading, writing and oral communication needs of each student."

Citation

Recommendations for Illinois

Require all special education teacher candidates who teach the elementary grades to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Illinois should require a rigorous reading assessment tool to ensure that its elementary special education teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. It is especially critical that these teacher candidates possess the knowledge and skills related to the science of reading and pass a rigorous test that addresses all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Elementary special education 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.

Illinois should require teacher preparation programs in the state to train special education candidates in all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Ensure that new special education teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Either through testing frameworks or teacher standards, NCTQ encourages Illinois to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all special education candidates—including those teaching under early childhood and secondary licenses—have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.

Ensure that new special education teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.

To ensure that special education students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Illinois 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.

Illinois should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that all special education teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling with reading. With reading difficulties generally representing the primary reason for special education placements, it is essential that all special education teachers have the knowledge and skills to diagnose and support students with literacy needs.

State response to our analysis

Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also indicated that Illinois is planning to update special education standards within the near future.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

4B: Teaching Special Education Reading

  • Scientifically Based Reading Instruction: The state should require that all new special education teachers who teach elementary grades are required to pass a rigorous elementary 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. The state should require that all teacher preparation programs prepare elementary special education candidates in the science of reading instruction.
  • College- and Career-Readiness Standards: The state should ensure that all new special education 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 special education teachers are prepared to incorporate informational texts of increasing complexity into instruction.
    • The state should ensure that all new special education teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
    • The state should ensure that all new special education 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 special education teachers who will teach elementary grades 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.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn only one-quarter of a point if the teacher preparation standards for special education teachers address the five components of scientifically based reading instruction, but the state does not have 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 one-quarter of a point if the state tests or maintains standards to ensure that all new special education teachers are sufficiently prepared for how college- and career-ready standards affect instruction. The state must have at least one of the standards (outlined in component two) "fully addressed" and two "partially addressed" to earn credit.

Research rationale

Teaching children to read is the most important task teachers at the elementary level 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. By routinely applying in the classroom the lessons learned from the scientific findings, most reading failure can be avoided. 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.[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 special education teachers who can demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to teach children to read.[4]

Effective early reading instruction is especially important for teachers of special education students. By far, the largest classification of students receiving special education services are those with learning disabilities. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, it is estimated that reading disabilities account for about 80 percent of learning disabilities.[5] While early childhood and elementary teachers must know the reading science to prevent reading difficulties, special education teachers, and especially elementary special education teachers, must know how to support students who have already fallen behind and struggle with reading and literacy skills.[6] States should require no less from special education teachers in terms of preparation to teach reading than they require from general education teachers.[7]

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 texts. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, states also need to attend 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.[8] For special education teachers, preparation and training must focus on managing these instructional shifts while also helping students who may have serious reading deficiencies.


[1] Torgesen, J.K. (November 2005). Preventing reading disabilities in young children: Requirements at the classroom and school level. Western North Carolina LD/ADD Symposium. Retrieved from http://www.fcrr.org/science/pdf/torgesen/NC-interventions.pdf; 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
[2] National Reading Panel (US), National Institute of Child Health and 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] 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; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary education. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245
[4] 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. Retrieved from http://www.tegr.org/Review/Articles/vol2/v2n2.pdf; See also: 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. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.124.9956&rep=rep1&type=pdf; For information on where states set passing scores on elementary level content tests for teacher licensing across the U.S., see: 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
[5] Wehman, P. (2002). A new era: Revitalizing special education for children and their families. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17(4), 194-197. Retrieved from http://ectacenter.org/~pdfs/calls/2010/earlypartc/revitalizing_special_education.pdf
[6] 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. (2006). How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning, and thinking. American Educator, 30(1), 30. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/spring2006/willingham.cfm
[7] Levenson, N. (2011). Something has got to change: Rethinking special education (Working Paper 2011-01). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED521782
[8] 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