The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released an analysis revealing the ineffectiveness of most exams used to license reading teachers in the United States, sparking a call for reform to address this vital educational deficit.
Overview of Current Reading Licensure Tests
The study by the NCTQ, a nonpartisan research and policy organization, assessed the 25 licensure tests currently in use. It found that a mere six tests can be classified as strong assessments. The evaluation criteria were based on the incorporation of the five core components of reading science: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. These components are foundational for scientifically-based reading instruction, which is informed by extensive research on how children learn to read.
Ineffective Assessments Prevalent
- Only six of the 25 licensure tests used across the U.S. are strong.
- Fifteen tests were rated as weak, four as acceptable, and one state does not require a test.
- Critics argue that these ineffective tests contribute to teacher shortages and are racially biased.
California’s Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA)
California, despite its use of the RICA — one of the six strong assessments — plans to eliminate it by 2025 due to concerns over alignment with state standards and biases. The replacement will be a literacy performance assessment focusing on actual teaching practices, including video submissions and written reflections by candidates.
Key Facts about RICA:
- RICA aligns with over 75% of the topics in the science of reading.
- It’s been criticized for not aligning with current standards and contributing to racial bias.
- A large proportion of teacher candidates, especially Black and Latino, fail the test initially.
Nationwide Impact of Weak Licensure Tests
The NCTQ’s findings are alarming, with 29 states using weak licensure tests, affecting nearly 100,000 educators and countless students. The statistics are particularly grim for marginalized groups, with more than half of Black and Latino students, students in poverty, and those with disabilities failing to meet reading standards by fourth grade.
Statistics Highlighting the Crisis:
- Only 18 states use strong licensure tests.
- A majority of states, 29, use weak tests that fail to adequately prepare teachers.
- Iowa notably does not require any reading licensure test at all.
Reform in Teacher Reading Instruction
California Senate Bill 488 is a legislative effort to revamp literacy standards and teacher performance assessments. It seeks to emphasize foundational reading skills, providing support for struggling readers, English learners, and students with exceptional needs.
Planned Changes and Developments:
- A new literacy performance assessment in California to be implemented by July 1, 2025.
- It will reflect new literacy standards and teaching expectations, focusing on classroom application.
- The assessment is under development by a diverse team and will be field-tested in the 2024-25 school year.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The NCTQ’s analysis underscores a critical need for improvement in the preparation of reading teachers. By adopting more rigorous licensure exams that are aligned with the science of reading, states can better ensure that teachers are equipped to impart essential reading skills to students. As the push for high-quality reading instruction gains momentum, the role of state education policies and standardized testing remains central to fostering educational success. For further reading on the components of scientifically-based reading instruction, refer to the NCTQ’s official website.
In summary, the teaching community and policymakers are at a crossroads. The need to recalibrate reading licensure tests is evident to ensure the development of competent, confident, and qualified reading teachers who can meet the diverse needs of America’s youth. This transition from standardized tests to performance assessments may well mark a significant step forward in the quest to improve literacy and learning outcomes for all students across the nation.