California is About to Scrap the RICA Competency Exam. A New Analysis Says it Works.

A reading instruction assessment that is about to be retired by the State of California is one of the few effective instruments for measuring competency among teacher candidates. That’s according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which recently analyzed the 25 licensing exams currently used in the U.S. 

In 2021, state lawmakers passed SB 488. Under the terms of the bill, California will no longer offer the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) after June 2025. The law was passed in response to widespread criticism of RICA. Opponents have said it fails to meet current English language arts standards and that it is racially biased, promulgating an existing teacher shortage. However, RICA is one of only six U.S. assessments deemed strong by NCTQ. 

According to EdSource, “council researchers based their rankings on whether the licensure exam adequately addresses the five core components of the science of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. They also took into consideration whether the tests combined reading with other subjects and tested teachers on methods of reading instruction already debunked by researchers.” Over 75% of the topics in each of those categories was covered by the exam. 

RICA is being replaced with a new literacy performance assessment that will allow teachers to submit written and recorded evidence of their instructional capabilities. It’s critical that that the state ensures this new exam is up to par and aligned with the science of reading, Council Heather Peske said.