Middle School Content Knowledge: District of
Columbia

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of appropriate grade-level content. This goal has been revised since 2017.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Middle School Content Knowledge: District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-91

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

Content Test Requirements: The District of Columbia offers a middle school general license and middle school single-subject licenses to teach grades 4-8.  Candidates for the middle school general license must pass the Praxis Middle School: Content knowledge (5146) test. This test covers the four core subject areas but only provides a composite score.  Teachers with this license can teach in self-contained or departmentalized middle schools. therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.

Candidates for middle school single-subject licenses must pass the applicable Praxis middle school single-subject test. Single subject license holders may also teach in self-contained or departmentalized classrooms.

The District of Columbia requires enrollment in, but not completion of, a teacher preparation program in order to obtain an initial license.  While this initial license is nonrenewable, it is valid for three years.

Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure , only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for District of Columbia

Require content testing in all core areas.
The District of Columbia 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.

Require program completion as a condition of initial licensure.
The District of Columbia should require all teacher candidates to complete their respective preparation programs as a condition of initial licensure.  Allowing teachers in the classroom as teachers of record prior to program completion risks students' being taught by teachers with inadequate preparation.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis, and also indicated that it does not receive many applications for the middle school general license.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.


[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf