Middle School Licensure Deficiencies

2017 Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

2017: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies

The state should distinguish between the preparation of middle school and elementary teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Best practices

Although no state stands out for its middle school license grade spans, 32 states do not allow teachers to teach on generalist K-8 licenses. These states require middle school teachers to earn middle school licenses that have requirements specific to the needs of middle school teachers.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Middle School Licensure Deficiencies national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/national/Middle-School-Licensure-Deficiencies-84
Best practice 0


Meets goal 31


Nearly meets goal 0


Meets goal in part 2


Meets a small part of goal 0


Does not meet goal 18


Do states’ licensure structures appropriately distinguish between the knowledge and skills needed to teach middle grades and the knowledge and skills needed to teach elementary grades?

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Figure details

Yes. State does not offer a K-8 license. : AL, AR, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WV, WY

Partially. State permits licensed elementary teachers to teach middle school students in self-contained classrooms.: CA, MI, MN, NE, OR, UT

No. State offers a K-8 license. : AK, AZ, ID, ME, MT, ND, NH, NM, NV, OK, SD, WA, WI

AZ: Offers 1-8 license.
CA: California offers a K-12 generalist license for all self-contained classrooms.
ND: Offers a 1-8 license.
NM: New Mexico requires K-8 teachers to demonstrate content knowledge in the applicable middle grades subject area in which they are going to teach.
OK: Offers a 1-8 license, with the exception of mathematics.
WI: Offers a 1-8 license.

Updated: March 2018

How we graded

3B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies 

  • Specific Licensure: The state should not permit middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and the preparation of elementary teachers.
Specific Licensure
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires teachers to teach on a middle school license (No K-8). 
  • 1/2 credit: The state will earn one half credit for either maintaining specific requirements limiting elementary teachers ability to teach in departmentalized middle schools or requiring teachers holding a K-8 license to demonstrate some relevant content knowledge at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it offers a K-8 license or a K-8 license in addition to a middle school license, allowing elementary teachers to teach single subjects at the middle school level without passing single-subject tests, or if the state offers a K-8 license and teachers can teach grades 7 and 8 in a self-contained classroom. 

Research rationale

Middle school grades are critical years of schooling. It is in these years that far too many students fall through the cracks. However, requirements for the preparation and licensure of middle school teachers can be especially problematic. States need to distinguish the knowledge and skills needed by middle school teachers from those needed by an elementary teacher. Whether teaching a single subject in a departmentalized setting or teaching multiple subjects in a self-contained setting, middle school teachers must be able to teach significantly more advanced content than elementary teachers. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] The notion that someone should be identically prepared to teach first grade or eighth grade mathematics seems ridiculous, but states that license teachers on a K-8 generalist certificate essentially endorse this idea.

[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf.