The International Literacy Association issued the first of a two-part report by its Teacher Preparation Task Force reviewing preparation that U.S. teachers receive to teach literacy and how different state departments of education differ in their requirements. The 13-member task force, co-chaired by Deanna Birdyshaw of the University of Michigan and Elizabeth Swaggerty of East Carolina University, includes leading literacy experts from across the country.
The task force used a two-part procedure to inform this preliminary report. The first part included compiling information about requirements for teacher preparation in literacy from 50 state education department websites between July and October 2014. The taskforce then interviewed state education department officials from 23 states to confirm the data collected and to increase understanding of how literacy instruction was addressed in the certification guidelines.
The preliminary report uncovered inconsistent standards and criteria for preparing teachers on how to teach literacy. “While there are limitations to this data and further review is underway, our initial findings show that few states require coursework related to preparation to teach literacy,” said Birdyshaw. Angela Rutherford, University of Mississippi, explained, “Surprisingly, our analysis showed only 18 states require specific courses in literacy for elementary teacher candidates, and half the states did not require specific coursework in any of the licensure areas. Further, there do not appear to be any requirements for literacy experiences during student teaching or other required practica.”
“Our primary takeaway is that all stakeholders need to be involved in the conversation about how to improve preparation of preservice teachers to design and implement instruction that increases the literacy learning of children in kindergarten through grade 12,” added Swaggerty. “We hope this initial report is a starting point for that conversation.”
Given the importance that state education standards and assessments play in the review of Teacher Education Programs, analysis of the data suggests:
- Systematic and comprehensive research that investigates preservice program features that effectively prepare candidates to develop students’ literacy across all grades and in all disciplines should be conducted and shared.
- State standards and assessments related to literacy teacher preparation should be research based and of sufficient quality to provide the feedback needed to develop or revise teacher education curricula and state certification guidelines.
- State guidelines for preservice teacher preparation should make explicit reference to what candidates should know and be able to do in relationship to literacy instruction.
- All preservice teachers should be required to participate in activities during their practica that develop their ability to design literacy instruction and monitor literacy growth.
In considering the findings, the taskforce recognized three primary limitations to the research.
- This is a preliminary report with the second phase ongoing.
- Teacher education programs are in transition, with state education department officials from 15 of the 23 states interviewed stating that changes were being made to teacher certification requirements in the coming year.
- State education officials interviewed were knowledgeable about the teaching requirements, but not necessarily experts in the areas related specifically to teaching literacy.
Swaggerty emphasized, “The report shares information gathered about certification requirements at the state level, not teacher education programs. Many teacher education programs go above and beyond the state requirements and have wide-ranging experiences related to teaching literacy.”
The second year goal is to interview Teacher Education Programs officials, administrators, and professors in all 50 states to determine how they are integrating the guidelines.
Preliminary Report on Preparation for Literacy Instruction. pp. 1-13. Newark, DE: International Literacy Association. http://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/teacher-preparation-report.pdf