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 the District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core Standards, the District does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
The District 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 District'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 District does not specify any coursework requirements for general education or elementary teacher candidates, it relies upon the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) standards for articulating the subject-matter knowledge that elementary teacher candidates must have.
However, ACEI standards fall far short of the mark by offering no mention of world and American history; world, British and American literature; American government; or grammar and composition. ACEI standards do mention important topics in science, but even in those areas, its standards consist mainly of extremely general competencies that programs should help teacher candidates to achieve.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
The District of Columbia 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 District 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, the District should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
The District of Columbia 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 District 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance District of Columbia teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
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.
The District of Columbia contended that although the analysis is accurate in that the District does not have an explicit stipulation requiring educator preparation units to deliver a comprehensive liberal arts course of study, there are multiple, obvious reasons for this that are not addressed.
The District asserted that many of its accredited institutions provide graduate-level educator preparation to post-baccalaureate candidates, and it is expected that in these cases, candidates will have completed a comprehensive liberal arts course of study prior to entering the teacher preparation program. For candidates in undergraduate teacher preparation programs, which are increasingly fewer and far between, most enter during their third year of undergraduate coursework, as they are undertaking and completing the liberal arts course of study cited in the analysis. Educator preparation programs may not be explicitly required to provide a comprehensive liberal arts course of study, but they are required to extensively assess candidates' knowledge of the subject matter.
Further, the District pointed out that it has established requirements for teacher license applicants that outline specific liberal arts or general education expectations for those seeking licensure to teach. These requirements apply directly to teacher candidates who have not participated in a state-approved teacher preparation program, and they outline 48 semester hours of coursework spanning the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and math, and health and physical education.
If teacher candidates prepared in traditional undergraduate programs are indeed "increasingly fewer and far between" in the District, that is all the more reason for the District to ensure that its testing requirements appropriately screen and measure the content knowledge of all candidates for licensure. NCTQ agrees that those in a graduate or alternative program must have already acquired subject-area knowledge, and the District must ensure that it does not license those who are lacking. While it may still be helpful for states to outline standards and/or course requirements for undergraduate programs, the bottom line is the test, and the content test currently used by the District does not ensure that any candidates—regardless of program or route—are prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with the Common Core Standards.