According to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a Washington-based think tank funded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which received funding from the Bush administration to support No Child Left Behind, many states fail to maintain the necessary requirements regarding elementary and special education teachers’ knowledge of reading instruction. The NCTQ has been critical of teacher education programs in the U.S. since its founding in 2000.
According to Strengthening Reading Instruction Through Better Preparation of Elementary and Special Education Teachers, 40 states still either do not have sufficient licensing tests in place for elementary and special education teachers, or have no test at all. A handful of states have adequate tests in place for elementary teacher candidates, but not special education teacher candidates, a perplexing stance given that 80% of all students are assigned to special education because of their struggle to read.
Those states that have adopted adequate tests of teachers’ reading knowledge for both elementary and special education teacher candidates are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin. “The failure of such a high percentage of our children to learn how to read is tragically unnecessary,” says Kate Walsh, NCTQ President. “We’ve known for decades what needs to change. Educational trends and priorities ebb and flow. Our responsibility to children should not.”
Many states maintain teacher preparation program standards that require the science of reading to be part of the elementary and special education teacher curricula, but the NCTQ claims that “standards alone have proven insufficient to ensure that these teachers are prepared to teach the science of reading, generally because they are hard to enforce.”
“If states want to use standards as their primary mechanism for delivering well-prepared teachers, they have to be prepared to also provide constant monitoring and enforcement. Few states have shown themselves to be so inclined,” continued Walsh. “The most efficient means available to states are strong tests backed up by annual reviews of how successful programs are preparing their candidates to pass this test.”
To promote universal literacy, NCTQ recommends:
- All states should require elementary and special education teacher candidates to pass a rigorous test in reading knowledge that is aligned with the scientific findings about how to produce the highest numbers of successful readers.
- When states adopt an assessment serving multiple purposes–that is, one that tests knowledge of other subjects alongside reading knowledge, it must report a separate subscore on a candidate’s reading knowledge.
- States should increase transparency by reviewing their teacher preparation programs and making information reflecting programs’ success in preparing candidates available to the public.
Read the full report here.