The state should ensure that its teacher preparation programs provide elementary teachers with a broad liberal arts education, the necessary foundation for teaching to the Common Core Standards.
Alaska does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach a broad range of elementary content.
Alaska requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test but not until after they have taught for three years. This policy puts the state in a dubious position with regard to NCLB's provision that all elementary teachers pass a subject-matter test. More importantly, Alaska's test does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score.
Further, the state does not specify any coursework requirements for elementary teacher candidates, except for coursework in Alaska studies and either multicultural education or cross-cultural communications.
However, Alaska does require NCATE accreditation, suggesting that the state uses the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) standards for approving its elementary programs. Unfortunately, ACEI standards fall far short of the mark by offering no mention of world and American history; world, British and American literature; American government; or grammar and composition. ACEI standards do mention important topics in science, but even in those areas, its standards consist mainly of extremely general competencies that programs should help teacher candidates to achieve.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Alaska Administrative Code 4 AAC 12.305 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test — as a condition of licensure—that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Alaska should require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Alaska should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Alaska should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish comprehensive coursework requirements that are specifically geared to the areas of knowledge needed by PK-6 teachers. An adequate curriculum is likely to require approximately 36 credit hours in the core subject areas of English, science, social studies and fine arts.
Require at least an academic concentration.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Alaska teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
Ensure that arts and sciences faculty teach liberal arts coursework.
Although an education professor is best suited to teach effective methodologies in subject instruction, faculty from the university's college of arts and sciences should provide subject-matter foundation.
Alaska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.