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.
Although Arkansas has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its early childhood teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
Arkansas requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which 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, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In addition, Arkansas requires all undergraduates in the state to complete the following coursework:
Arkansas Code 6-61-218 Early Childhood Competency Areas http://arkansased.org/educators/pdf/licensure/early_childhood.pdf Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Arkansas should ensure that its subject-matter test for elementary teacher candidates is well aligned with the Common Core Standards, which represent an effort to significantly raise the standards for the knowledge and skills American students will need for college readiness and global competitiveness.
The state should also 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, Arkansas should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Arkansas 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. Further, the state should align its requirements for elementary teacher candidates with the Common Core Standards, to ensure that candidates will complete coursework relevant to the common topics in elementary grades. 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 Arkansas 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.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has begun discussions with ETS to develop an elementary Praxis II test that is similar to the Middle Childhood test, with four content areas and a cut score for each. Test content was taken from four comprehensive tests, one for each content area.
NCTQ commends the efforts of states, like Arkansas, that have advocated for a new elementary education test from ETS. Requiring subscores for each of the content areas is a significant step toward ensuring that all elementary teachers possess the requisite knowledge for the classroom. NCTQ looks forward to reviewing Arkansas's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.