2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
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 Colorado 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.
Colorado requires candidates to pass either the Praxis II or the PLACE general elementary content test, neither of which reports teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In addition, all teacher candidates in Colorado must complete coursework in oral and written communication, critical thinking, social sciences, humanities and science. The state does not specify a minimum number of credit hours that must be completed in each of these areas; moreover, these required areas are too ambiguous to guarantee that the courses used to meet them will be relevant to the topics taught in the elementary classroom.
Commendably, Colorado requires that its elementary teacher candidates complete an academic major.
The state has also articulated elementary teacher standards, which require that candidates be "knowledgeable" in content areas that include civics, economics, foreign language, geography, history, science, music, visual arts and physical education. Although there are important curricular areas on this list, it is incomplete and too ambiguous to set a meaningful standard for holding either programs or teachers accountable.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Code of Colorado Regulations, 1 CCR 301-37, 2260.5-R-5.00, 5.04 Commission on Higher Education Part P, Section I, 3.03 Praxis II www.ets.org PLACE Test Requirement www.place.nesinc.com Spurlin, M. D. (1985), Colorado Teacher Education and Certification Report (pg. iii). Colorado State Publications Library: ED 5/80.2/T22/. Colorado Commission on Higher Education Meeting, March 24, 1986, pg. 3
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Colorado should ensure that its subject-matter tests for elementary teacher candidates are 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.
The state should also require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Colorado should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Colorado 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.
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.
Colorado asserted that all students who earn undergraduate degrees at public institutions of higher education, including teacher preparation programs, complete the general education (gtPathways) liberal arts core. Most, if not all, of the private institutions of higher education have also aligned their general education requirements to ease the transfer process.
Colorado also contended that by December 15, 2012, all preparation programs must teach to the new P-12 Academic and Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness Standards, which are aligned with the Common Core Standards.
Further, the state noted that arts and sciences faculty teach liberal arts coursework, per the performance contracts that the Colorado Department of Higher Education has with the institutions of higher education. "Finally, by July 1, 2006, all content (non-pedagogy) courses leading to the fulfillment of endorsement area requirements for secondary education licensure shall be taught by faculty members belonging to or approved by the departments from which the courses originate (e.g., American history courses are taught by history department faculty members or faculty members approved by the history department, mathematics courses are taught by mathematics department faculty members or faculty members approved by the mathematics department)."
The cited contract between the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the institutions of higher education ensures that arts and sciences faculty teach the content courses relating to the requirements for secondary education licensure. There is still no guarantee that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.