Middle School Content Knowledge: Arizona

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy


The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Middle School Content Knowledge: Arizona results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AZ-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-84

Analysis of Arizona's policies

Content Test Requirements: Arizona offers a middle grades endorsement to teach grades 5-9. Candidates must add this endorsement to an existing elementary or secondary license. The state offers the National Evaluation Series (NES) middle school single-subject content assessments presumably for candidates who are adding the middle grades endorsement. However, this requirement is not articulated in the regulation.

New legislation in Arizona allows candidates to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge by passing the applicable subject knowledge portions of the Arizona Educator Teacher Proficiency Assessment, or possess a bachelor's degree or higher in elementary education (for elementary licenses) or relevant content area (for secondary licenses).

Academic Requirements: Arizona does not explicitly require a major or minor in the subject areas that the candidates plan to teach.

Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Arizona also offers a generalist 1-8 license. Because middle school licensure deficiencies are scored in 3-B "Middle School Licensure Deficiencies," it is not considered as part of the score for the Middle School Content Knowledge goal.


Recommendations for Arizona

Require content testing in all core areas.
Arizona should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance. The state's new policy allows teacher candidates to demonstrate content knowledge in ways that do not include the passage of a test with individual subscores. Relevant upper-level coursework lays the foundation for requisite content knowledge, but to ensure that teacher candidates possess sufficient subject-matter knowledge for the elementary classroom, Arizona should require all teacher candidates to pass a rigorous test.

Middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects should earn two subject-matter minors.
Arizona should encourage middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects to earn two subject-matter minors. This would allow candidates to gain sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests, and it would increase schools' staffing flexibility.

State response to our analysis

Arizona indicated that teachers with an elementary teaching certificate who are providing instruction at the middle-level grades are required to pass the appropriate subject area portion of the Arizona Teacher Proficiency Assessment. If a proficiency assessment is not offered in the subject area, an approved area shall consist of a minimum of 24 semester hours of courses in the subject. Arizona added that a secondary teaching certificate requires an approved area and allows the holder of the certificate to teach departmentalized grades 6-12. The holder of an elementary certificate may teach self-contained in grades K-8.

Updated: December 2017

Last word

Although it does appear that teachers adding a grades 5-9 endorsement to an elementary certificate must pass middle school content tests, NCTQ can find no limitations on the usage of the grades 1-8 license. If it is in fact the state's intention to prevent teachers on this license from teaching middle school, NCTQ wonders why the state continues to offer this license.

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

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 can be especially problematic. States need 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. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] 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.

[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf