The state should ensure that middle school teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of appropriate grade-level content. This goal has been revised since 2017.
Content Test Requirements: Arizona offers a middle grades endorsement to teach grades 5-9. However this endorsement is optional. 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 for candidates who are adding the middle grades endorsement.
Additionally, in lieu of passing the state's required content test, Arizona also allows candidates to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge using one of the following methods:
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 policy allows teacher candidates to demonstrate content knowledge in ways that do not include the passage of a single-subject test. 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 single-subject test.
Arizona was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
3A: Middle School Content Knowledge
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. 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.