The state should distinguish between the preparation of middle school and elementary teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Unfortunately, Arizona allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license in self-contained classrooms. Those teaching on this generalist license need only pass the content test required of elementary teachers or utilize other options of demonstrating subject matter knowledge that does not include passing the elementary content test. Therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.
Arizona offers, but does not require, middle school endorsements (grades 5-9) for teachers who already have either an elementary or secondary certificate "to expand the grades a teacher is authorized to teach on an elementary or secondary certificate." The state also offers secondary single-subject licenses covering grades 6-12.
Arizona Administrative Code, Title 7, R7-2- 602; 609; 615(P) August 4, 2017 State Board of Education meeting documents https://azsbe.az.gov/file/2394/download?token=6ac3SbR9
Eliminate the generalist license.
Arizona should not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and that of elementary teachers. These teachers are less likely to be adequately prepared to teach core academic areas at the middle school level because their preparation requirements are not specific to the middle or secondary levels, and they need not pass a subject-matter test in each subject they teach. Adopting middle school teacher preparation policies for all such teachers will help ensure that students in grades 7 and 8 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade-level content.
Arizona was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
3B: Middle School Licensure Requirements
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.