Secondary Teacher Preparation: Florida

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas.

Nearly meets

Analysis of Florida's policies

Florida offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 6-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a content test (Florida Teacher Certification Examinations, or FTCE) to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, Florida permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing a general social studies license without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within this discipline (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations).

Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a content test. However, as stated above, Florida cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general social studies subject coverage. 

Florida's preparation and licensure requirements for secondary teachers address some of the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards. Both the secondary 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:    

  • Apply effective instructional practices to develop text reading skills in the appropriate content area    
  • Select instructional practices for developing and using content area vocabulary    
  • Determine instructional practices to facilitate students' reading comprehension through content areas    
  • Apply appropriate literacy strategies for developing higher-order critical thinking skills    
  • Select appropriate resources for the subject matter and students' literacy levels.     
Regarding struggling readers, Florida requires teachers to "apply appropriate instructional practices determined by the student's strengths and needs, text structure, and the reading demands of domain specific text." Florida's competencies for Professional Education also require teachers to "differentiate instructional practices based on literacy data for all students."






Citation

Recommendations for Florida

Ensure that secondary teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.

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 secondary 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 secondary 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 secondary 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.

State response to our analysis

Florida noted that with regard to the recommendation to "incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject," 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 state-adopted content standards are the Florida Standards, which have literacy standards throughout. The state added that Florida ensures that literacy skills are incorporated and an integral part of every subject.

How we graded

Research rationale

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. 
Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered.  A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history.  To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith. 

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license.
Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework.  As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge.  Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject. 

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. Particularly for secondary teachers of subjects other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute,March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

In addition, research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.

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.