A Fair Chance: Simple steps to strengthen and diversify the teacher workforce

Program Action Guide

An Action Guide for Teacher Preparation Programs to Ensure Elementary Content Knowledge

In February 2019, NCTQ released A Fair Chance: Simple steps to strengthen and diversify the teacher workforce. That report demonstrated that many elementary candidates are struggling to pass content licensing exams and identified opportunities that prep programs and their institutions are currently missing to shore up foundational content knowledge. This guide provides more detail about steps that prep programs can take, tools to support that process, and examples from real prep programs that have taken action.
Why this Action Guide?
Programs that prepare elementary teachers have a daunting responsibility – they are readying the people who will teach children reading and numeracy, build a foundation in STEM and social studies subjects, all while providing many children's first introduction to formal schooling. By rising to this challenge, programs may also help a more diverse cohort of teachers reach the classroom. Given the magnitude of this task, programs may run into a few hurdles along the way. This Action Guide is designed to help programs address the set of challenges associated with building the content knowledge that teacher candidates need to reach the classroom and succeed once they arrive.

Learn more about the findings of A Fair Chance
and start taking action.

What content knowledge do elementary teacher candidates need?
The specific curricula elementary teachers teach varies by district and state, but much of the core content they need to know wherever they teach can be distilled into 11 topic areas across four subjects. These four subjects and the topics within were identified based on their alignment to the content on states' elementary content licensure tests, which states select to reflect the content they expect their elementary teachers to know. They also align with current research, professional standards for teachers, and learning standards for elementary students.

See what content courses aligned with the needs of elementary
teachers should include.

Criteria for great courses – and examples of ones that miss the mark
Courses in the topics identified above need to meet four characteristics: attainability, breadth, relevance, and focus on content. Courses that do not exhibit these characteristics can still offer value for teacher candidates, developing their interest in a topic or giving pedagogical techniques. However, teacher candidates must start from a strong foundation in a topic, and so preparation programs must first make sure that candidates' core knowledge is in place.

See explanations of the four key criteria for great content courses and examples of real courses that miss the mark.

Breaking it down: Steps prep programs should take
To provide elementary teachers with the solid foundation they need, teacher preparation programs can tighten up admissions criteria and course requirements, considering both the courses teacher candidates take to fulfill their general education requirements and the requirements of their education program. Teacher prep programs follow different models, and so the following section presents a variety of approaches for building candidates' content knowledge. Programs can adapt these recommendations based on their particular context.

Breaking it down: Course requirements

Breaking it down: Admissions testing

Breaking it down: Program requirements

Guidance for topics in states' tests
Want more information about what content your candidates need to know to succeed on an elementary content licensing tests? Testing companies provide information for most tests to help prep program faculty map their curricula against the course content. These companies also provide some free test preparation materials for candidates, which may offer program faculty further guidance.

Find links to these resources.