Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Minding the Gate: Data-Driven Decisions about the Literacy Preparation of Elementary Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Minding the Gate: Data-Driven Decisions about the Literacy Preparation of Elementary Teachers

Article excerpt

Nationally, stakeholders have been concerned about the reading proficiency levels of their elementary students (Canney, 1998, 1999; National Reading Panel, 2000; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001; Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). They understand that highly qualified teachers are a vital factor in student reading achievement (Anders, Hoffman, & Duffy, 2000; Darling-Hammond, 1996; Duffy & Hoffman, 1999). As of August 2002, all Idaho preservice K-8 teachers have been required by law to pass the Idaho Comprehensive Literacy Assessment (ICLA) as one of several conditions for certification. (For a more complete description of the rationale, development, and performance of the ICLA, see Squires, Canney, & Trevisan, 2004). This article examines data from nine statewide administrations of the ICLA during a period of 3 years to identify areas of literacy content knowledge and research-based pedagogical practices for which preservice teacher candidates did and did not evidence good understanding.

Brief History of the ICLA

In 1997, a committee of more than 30 teachers, legislators, business representatives, the State Board of Education, and two higher education personnel was given the task of collecting information about how well Idaho students were doing in reading. In their teacher survey of reading practices and concerns, distributed statewide to all elementary and special education K-8 teachers, more than 5,000 elementary and special education teachers (83%) identified which reading practices they preferred, as well as areas in which they needed more information and assistance. They reported helping struggling readers as their number one concern; they also requested information on how to teach reading comprehension and how to assess students having difficulty in reading (Idaho Comprehensive Literacy Committee, 1998).

Canney (1998, 1999) conducted a statewide study of 938 Idaho fourth-grade students, finding that between 21% and 62% tested below grade level in reading, depending on which of six measures of reading performance were consulted: Iowa Test of Basic Skills (Hoover et al., 1993), Qualitative Reading Inventory II (Leslie & Caldwell, 1995), Stanford Diagnostic Reading Tests (Karlsen & Gardner, 1995), and classroom teachers' ratings of the overall reading proficiency of each student in their classrooms. Shortly after the results of this survey were presented, a report on reading from the National Institute of Child and Human Development (Snow et al., 1998) concluded that struggling readers typically lacked adequate direct instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency.

The Idaho legislature then commissioned a private reading clinic in Idaho and several legislators to craft the Idaho Comprehensive Literacy Plan K-3 (Glaser, 1998), using information provided by the Idaho Literacy Committee and the research literature. This led to three laws being enacted: Reading instruction must follow research-based best practices leading to every Idaho student reading on grade level by the end of third grade (Idaho Statute 33-1615; Extended Year Reading Intervention Program, 1999); K-3 students not reading near grade level were to be afforded a 40-hr summer reading intervention program (Idaho Statute 33-1616; Evaluations and Interventions, 1999); a test of K-8 preservice candidates' knowledge of research-based content and pedagogy related to reading instruction and assessment would be developed (the ICLA) and candidates required to pass the test to receive elementary or special education certification (Idaho Statute 33-1207A; Teacher Preparation, 1999). To recertify, in-service K-8 teachers and school principals would have to pass either the ICLA or a specific three-credit course (Idaho Comprehensive Literacy Course [ICLC]) about literacy theory and research-based best practices.

Passage of 33-1207A prompted an examination of teacher preparation in reading at Idaho's seven teacher preparation institutions. …

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