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 Iowa 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.
Iowa requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing scores. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
As of September 1, 2015, elementary teacher candidates will have to complete the following content coursework:
Iowa Administrative Code 282-13.26(5) and 281-79.14(2) Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Iowa 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.
The state 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, Iowa should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Iowa 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.
Iowa's policy requiring elementary candidates to earn a "field of specialization" is undermined because it may be met with an interdisciplinary program. Unlike an academic concentration, an interdisciplinary concentration will not necessarily enhance teachers' content knowledge or ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it does not provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree, as an academic major does.
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.
Iowa was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.