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.
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: 1) a passing score on a content test; 2) National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification in the content field; 3) a content major consisting of at least 30 semester hours in the content field; 4) at least 30 semester hours in the content field, at least 15 of which must be upper-division level; or 5) 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 II content test to attain licensure; a general content-knowledge test is not an option.
Hawaii does not explicitly require a major or minor in the subject areas that the candidates plan to teach.
Hawaii's preparation and licensure requirements for middle school teachers do not ensure that teachers will be prepared to teach to these new standards.
Although the assessment adopted by Hawaii for middle school English language arts teachers—the Praxis II Middle School English Language Arts (5047) test—includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with these standards, content assessments are not required for certification.
Neither teacher standards nor middle school tests in other content areas address incorporating literacy skills.
Regarding struggling readers, Hawaii's middle school English content test requires that a teacher "knows commonly used research-based approaches to grouping and differentiated instruction to meet specific instructional objectives in English Language Arts" and "understands commonly used research-based strategies for teaching adolescent reading."
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org New Business Item 12-22; 12-29 Licensing Requirements http://www.htsb.org/licensing-permits/licensure-tests/
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. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.
Encourage middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects to earn two subject-matter minors.
This would allow candidates to gain sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests, and it would increase schools' staffing flexibility. However, middle school candidates in Hawaii who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.
Ensure that middle school 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. Either through testing frameworks or teacher standards, Hawaii should specifically address the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.
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, Hawaii should also include 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. Hawaii should articulate 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 middle school 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.
Close the loophole that allows teachers to add middle-grade levels to an existing license without demonstrating content knowledge.
Hawaii allows teachers to add new fields to certificates either by completing a state-approved teacher education program, submitting proof of teaching experience and 30 hours of coursework, or by proof of experience and a passing score on a content test. The state is urged to require that all teachers who add the middle-grade levels to their certificates pass a rigorous subject-matter test to ensure content knowledge of all subject areas before they are allowed in the classroom.
Hawaii had no comment on this goal.
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.