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 Connecticut 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.
Connecticut requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score. 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.
Although the state does not articulate standards for programs to apply in preparing elementary candidates, all teacher candidates in Connecticut are required to complete a set of general coursework requirements. These courses must total at least 39 credit hours with coursework in areas that include English, natural sciences, social studies, foreign language and fine arts. Elementary teacher candidates, specifically, must complete a survey course in U.S. history. However, 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.
Connecticut requires that elementary candidates must complete either a subject-area or interdisciplinary major.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
State of Connecticut Regulation of State Board of Education Section 10-145d-436 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Connecticut 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.
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, Connecticut should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Connecticut should either articulate a specific set of standards or establish more 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.
Connecticut's policy requiring elementary candidates to earn an academic major is undermined because it may be met with an interdisciplinary major. Unlike an academic major, an interdisciplinary major will not necessarily enhance teachers' content knowledge or ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it does not provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree, as an academic major does.
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.
Connecticut recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is investigating a new selection of elementary teacher exams that will have subject-area subscores. A group of stakeholders will be convened to adopt a new test and set recommended cut scores. Recommendations will be presented to the Board for formal adoption in late fall 2011, and implementation is scheduled for July 1, 2012. Further, pending regulation changes will allow elementary education candidates to complete a 39-credit interdisciplinary major, which is defined as nine credits in reading and language arts; nine credits in mathematics; nine credits in science; and six credits in history/social studies, including a course in U.S. history. The revised regulations will become effective July 1, 2015.
NCTQ commends the efforts of states, like Connecticut, that have advocated for a new elementary education test from ETS. Requiring subscores for each of the content areas is a significant step toward ensuring that all elementary teachers possess the requisite knowledge for the classroom. NCTQ looks forward to reviewing Connecticut's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.