Report: States Lack Consistent Standards for Literacy Teacher Preparation

Only 18 states require elementary teacher candidates to complete specific courses in literacy education, according to a report from the International Literacy Association.

The report, "Preliminary Report on Teacher Preparation for Literacy Instruction," is the first of a two-part report by the association's Teacher Preparation Task Force, which is examining the education and practical training of teachers in the United States and the requirements set out by the state departments of education.

Although the results are preliminary and the task force is conducting further investigation, the report reveals a lack of coursework and practical requirements for preservice teachers in many states.

"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," said Angela Rutherford, associate professor at the University of Mississippi and a member of the task force, in a prepared statement. "Further, there do not appear to be any requirements for literacy experiences during student teaching or other required practica."

To inform this preliminary report, the task force first reviewed the requirements for teacher preparation in literacy as published on 50 state department of education Web sites between July and October 2014. They then conducted interviews with department of education leaders from 23 states to verify and gain further insight into the data collected from the sites.

The 13-member task force is co-chaired by Deanna Birdyshaw, a lecturer at the University of Michigan, and Elizabeth Swaggerty, associate professor of reading education at East Carolina University, and includes literacy experts from across the country.

Based on the their findings, the task force outlined four main recommendations:

  • There is a need to conduct and share more systematic and comprehensive research into literacy teacher preparation programs;
  • State standards and assessments of literacy teacher preparation should be research-based and of sufficient quality to inform teacher education curricula and certification guidelines;
  • State guidelines for teacher preparation should provide explicit requirements for literacy teacher preparation; and
  • All preservice teachers should be required to take part in literacy education activities during their 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," said Swaggerty in a prepared statement. "We hope this initial report is a starting point for that conversation."

The task force identified three main limitations of the preliminary report:

  • Part two of the report is ongoing;
  • Representatives from 15 of the 23 states departments of education who were interviewed said changes to their teacher certification requirements were being planned; and
  • The representatives interviewed were not experts in literacy education.

As the task force prepares part two of the report, they plan to interview officials, administrators and professors from teacher education programs in all 50 states to find out how they are integrating the guidelines of the preliminary report.

The full preliminary report is available as a free PDF download from the International Literacy Association's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].