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 Arizona has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
Arizona requires candidates to pass the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment (AEPA) general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas.
Arizona does not specify any general education coursework requirements and does not require specific subject-matter courses for elementary education majors. The state appears only to require methodology courses in subject areas (e.g., how to teach elementary school science, social studies, language arts); therefore, the coursework used to meet these requirements is most likely taught by education faculty, not arts and sciences faculty, and may fail to provide strong foundational knowledge in these subject areas. Additionally, all teachers must complete courses on the Arizona and United States constitutions.
In addition, Arizona has articulated program approval standards it expects elementary teachers to meet. According to the standards, candidates must "demonstrate knowledge" of language arts, science, social studies and fine arts. These are important curricular areas, but this statement is far too ambiguous to set a meaningful standard for holding either programs or teachers accountable. Arizona also articulates standards within the framework of the AEPA content test, which include more detail about the content elementary teachers should know. However, the framework lacks specific mention of important areas such as basic chemistry and literature.
Arizona Administrative Code R7-2-602, -604, -608 Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments http://www.aepa.nesinc.com/
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Arizona 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.
Arizona should also require separate passing scores for each content area on its test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Arizona should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Arizona 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 Arizona 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.
Arizona recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.