Why American Students Do Not Learn to Read Very Well: The Unintended Consequences of Title II and Teacher Testing

Sandra Stotsky
Third Education Group Review
Vol. 2, No. 2, 2006

At the end of the day, our children's ability to read depends upon whether ed school instructors know how to teach the science of reading. A growing body of evidence suggests they are failing (see here.) So how, then, do their graduates continue to receive licenses to teach elementary school or to serve as reading instructors? This new paper by Sandra Stotsky provides a simple but disturbing answer-the licensing exams prospective teachers must pass don't test their knowledge of research-based reading. Stotsky analyzed exams offered by Educational Testing Service (both national and state exams), National Evaluation Systems, and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, to see how much of their tests covered instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary building. Parents whose children are struggling to read will find little solace in Stotsky's results. She reviewed eleven tests used for certifying elementary teachers and found that most failed to cover the basics of scientific-based reading instruction. Three of the four PRAXIS II exams reviewed, required by 46 states, only dedicate between 1 and 7 percent of their content to this critical material (though the fourth PRAXIS fared substantially better). "These aspects of reading instruction receive such minimal attention," Stotsky writes, "that test-takers could fail every question...and still pass the test no matter where the passing score is set." The record's no better for tests administered to reading teachers, reading specialists, early childhood teachers, or special ed teachers. Gladly, some of the customized state tests (California's and Massachusetts's, for example) are much stronger, as is the ABCTE exam. Alas, that's the only test studied that is not required for certification, but is merely an alternative route to teaching. Pity. Read the report here.

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