Middle School Content Knowledge: Hawaii

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Middle School Content Knowledge: Hawaii results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/HI-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-91

Analysis of Hawaii's policies

Content Test Requirements: Although Hawaii requires middle school certification (grades 6-8) for all middle school teachers, the state also utilizes five options for verifying content knowledge for licensure:

  • A passing score on a content test; 
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification in the content field;
  • A content major consisting of at least 30 semester hours in the content field;
  • At least 30 semester hours in the content field, at least 15 of which must be upper-division level; or
  • A master's, specialist, or doctoral degree in the license field.

Regrettably, not all of these options ensure requisite content knowledge for a middle grades teacher candidate. 

Candidates who opt for the content test are required to pass a single-subject Praxis content test to attain licensure; a general content-knowledge test is not an option.

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 Hawaii

Require content testing in all core areas.
Hawaii 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. The state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance to ensure meaningful middle school content tests. The state's policy  allows teacher candidates to demonstrate content knowledge in ways that do not include the passage of a mathematics subtest. Relevant higher-level coursework provides the foundation for requisite content knowledge, but to ensure that teacher candidates possess sufficient mathematics subject-matter knowledge for the elementary classroom, Hawaii should require all teacher candidates to pass a rigorous test.

State response to our analysis

Hawaii asserted that the five options do require requisite content knowledge verification and cited ETS research, transcript analysis and educator preparation program verification.


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