Middle School Teacher Preparation

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

2011 Goals for Middle School Teacher Preparation

The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Best practices

Arkansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania ensure that all middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach middle school-level content. Teachers are required to earn at least two content-area minors. Georgia and Pennsylvania also require passing scores on single-subject content tests, and Arkansas requires a subject-matter assessment that reports cut scores for each academic area. 

Best practice 3

States

Meets goal 7

States

Nearly meets goal 8

States

Meets goal in part 11

States

Meets a small part of goal 11

States

Does not meet goal 11

States

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?

2011
Figure details

Yes. State does not offer a K-8 license. : AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, 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, RI, UT

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

How we graded

States must differentiate middle school teacher preparation from that of elementary teachers.

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 are among the weakest state policies. Too many states fail 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 do. 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.

Approved programs should prepare middle school teacher candidates to be qualified to teach two subject areas.

Since current federal law requires most aspiring middle school teachers to have a major or pass a test in each teaching field, the law would appear to preclude them from teaching more than one subject. However, middle school teacher candidates could instead earn two subject-area minors, gaining sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests and be highly qualified in both subjects. This policy would increase schools' staffing flexibility, especially since teachers seem to show little interest in taking tests to earn highly qualified teaching status in a second subject once they are in the classroom.  This only applies to middle school teachers who intend to teach multiple subjects.  States must ensure that middle school teachers licensed only to teach one subject area have a strong academic background in that area.  

Research rationale

A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. U.S. Department of Education. Foundation for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education (2008).

For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see Dee and Chodes, "Out-of-Field Teaching and Student Achievement; Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review (2008); as B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of 8th grade teachers," in NSF/NELS 88: Teacher transcript analysis (Rockville, MD: Westat, 1995); H. Wenglinsky, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back Into Discussions of Teacher Quality (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2000). For information on the "ceiling effect," see D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "When should we reward degrees for teachers?" in Phi Delta Kappan 80, No. 2 (1998): 134-138.

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