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 Florida 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.
Florida requires candidates to pass the Florida Teacher Certification Examination (FTCE) general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still perform poorly in some subject areas.
In addition, all teacher candidates in Florida must complete 36 semester hours of general education courses in the subject areas of communication, mathematics, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. These are good requirements, but they are defined too broadly to guarantee that the courses used to meet them will be relevant to the topics taught in the PK-6 classroom.
Additionally, Florida requires elementary teacher candidates to complete a major in elementary education and stipulates that preparation programs must provide instruction in all subject-matter competencies tested on the state's subject-area examination. These include language arts; social science; science and technology; and music, visual arts, physical education and health.
While Florida does not indicate its subject-area expectations in standards, it does so through the framework of the FTCE content test. For example, in the area of social studies, teacher candidates are required to understand history, government, economics and geography. However, there are a few gaps in key areas such as American and world literature and art history.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Florida State Board of Education Administrative Rules 6A-4.0151 and 6A-5.066 Florida Statute 1007.25 Florida Teacher Certification Examinations http://www.fl.nesinc.com/
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Florida 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.
Florida 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, Florida should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Florida 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Florida 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.
Florida recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has begun work under its Race to the Top plan to revise its elementary education K-6 subject-area test, including: realignment of the exam to the Common Core Standards; realignment of the Uniform Core Curriculum in teacher preparation programs to the Common Core Standards, which is planned for 2013-2014; and the requirement for passing scores on each of the content areas within the test (language arts/reading, math, science, social science). Florida also noted that the new exam will be administered in 2013-2014, the year prior to the implementation of the Common Core Standards. The state is also considering an academic concentration for elementary education preparation programs.
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.