Middle School Teacher Preparation : Arkansas

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Best Practice
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Middle School Teacher Preparation : Arkansas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AR-Middle-School-Teacher-Preparation--6

Analysis of Arkansas's policies

Arkansas delineates two competency areas for middle school teachers who are licensed to teach grades 4-8 in either the areas of English language arts/social studies or mathematics/science. Regardless of competency area, middle school teachers must complete 12-15 hours in each of the four academic fields. Candidates then select a major in either English language arts/social studies or mathematics/science, and then they must earn at least 18 credits in each of the two disciplines in their competency area.

As of November 1, 2011, all new middle school teacher candidates will be required to take the Praxis II Middle School: Multiple Subjects assessment, which will report a cut score for each of the four content areas. Candidates will be allowed to re-take any section that they do not pass; however, all sections must be passed prior to licensure.

Citation

Recommendations for Arkansas

State response to our analysis

Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

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.