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

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. For detailed support for these subject areas, see A Fair Chance Appendix D: Support for essential elementary content subjects.

The content described here intends to reflect the content teachers need to meet the current and future state of elementary education. Should the field decide that some of these topics are no longer of importance, they should be dropped from state licensure tests and school curricula before they are dropped from elementary teacher preparation.

Although neither art nor music is included on many licensing tests, there is no shortage of support behind the idea that elementary teachers should have some understanding and appreciation of both. While the analysis and recommendations stemming from A Fair Chance focus on building knowledge of English language arts, social studies, science, and mathematics, programs can also seek to build candidates' familiarity with art and music by requiring courses on these topics.

The core content areas examined in this report do not encompass everything elementary teachers must learn, omitting scientifically based reading methods, pedagogy, classroom management, assessment, collaborating with parents and families, and many other essential topics. We focus specifically on the core subject matter that teachers will be expected to teach, and do not delve into everything they need to know about how to teach it.