Diana W. Rigden
Reading First Teacher Education Network
This report from the Reading First Teacher Education Network (RFTEN) points to stagnant NAEP reading scores and asks an important question: Are elementary teacher licensure tests aligned with "the essential components of effective instruction as defined by scientifically-based reading research (SBRR)"? The author evaluated eight licensure exams--five developed by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and three by National Evaluation Systems (NES)--and measured them against the SBRR's five essential components as defined by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Encouragingly, she found that tests developed specifically to measure a teaching candidate's knowledge of reading--ETS's Introduction to the Teaching of Reading and NES's Foundations of Reading, for example--generally pass muster. So why the crummy NAEP scores and the moans that have accompanied them? The problem, it seems, is that "most states require future elementary teachers to take multi-subject licensure tests that have few items directed explicitly to the teaching of reading." (It is unclear what exactly "most states" means.) ETS's Elementary Education: Content Knowledge and Middle School English Language Arts are two such culprits. This observation has been made before; indeed, Rigden's report closely resembles Sandra Stotsky's own recent evaluation of licensure tests, which looked at five of the eight exams Rigden reviews. Rigden also recommends, however, that the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which sponsors the RFTEN project, strengthen its own standards "to guide and influence the quality of teacher preparation programs in the United States." Nothing revolutionary here, but the report does help amplify the national grumbling over mediocrity in teaching. Rigden's and Stotsky's reports, along with the NCTQ's recent attack on education schools, form a nice one-two punch against the nemesis of poor teacher quality.