The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas.
Florida requires middle grades certification (grades 5-9) for all middle school teachers. The state offers middle grades certification for four specific subject areas: English, math, science and social science. Candidates must earn a major or complete 18 credit hours in their intended teaching field.
All new middle school teachers in Florida are also required to pass a specific subject-area test, one of the "Florida Teacher Certification Examination" tests, to attain licensure.
Commendably, Florida does not offer a K-8 generalist license.
Florida addresses some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students through its required assessment, the Florida Teacher Certification Examination. Both the Middle Grades FTCE English test and the state's reading competencies include only vague references to informational texts.
Florida's competencies for its Professional Education test require "knowledge of effective literacy strategies that can be applied across the curriculum to impact student learning," which includes the following:
Test Requirements www.fl.nesinc.com Florida Rule 6A-5.066; 6A-4.03321; 6A-4.0331; 6A-4.0163 Florida Statute 1012.56
Ensure that middle school teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Florida's testing standards and competencies fail to capture the major instructional shifts of college- and career-ready standards. The state is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all middle school English candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.
Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
To ensure that middle school students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Florida should also include more specific requirements regarding literacy skills and using text as a means to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.
Support struggling readers.
Florida should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that middle school teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. While college- and career-readiness standards will increase the need for all secondary teachers to be able to help struggling readers to comprehend grade-level material, training for English language arts teachers in particular must emphasize identification and remediation of reading deficiencies.
Florida was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
Florida also noted that all state-approved teacher preparation programs must abide by statutory regulations that specify a uniform core curricula that includes scientifically researched reading instruction and content literacy, as well as the state-adopted content standards, the Florida Standards. The state added that the Reading K-12 subject-area examination is currently undergoing development with the same focus on rigor as the other examinations that include reading competencies.
differentiate middle school teacher preparation from that of elementary
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 are among the weakest state policies. Too many states fail 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 do. 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.
College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction.
College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards. Because middle school teachers in most states can be licensed either to be multi-subject teachers or generalists, middle school teachers need specialized preparation. Particularly for single subject teachers of areas other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute.
Middle School Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. U.S. Department of Education. Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education (2008).
For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see T. Dee and S. Cohodes, "Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement: Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review, Volume 36, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 7-32; B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics," in NSF/NELS:88 Teacher transcript analysis, 1995, ERIC, ED389530, 112 p.; H. Wenglinsky, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back Into Discussions of Teacher Quality (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2000).
For information on the "ceiling effect," see D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "When should we reward degrees for teachers?" in Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 80, No. 2, October 1998, pp. 134, 136-138.
For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.