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 Illinois 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.
Illinois requires candidates to pass the Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas.
Further, Illinois does not specify any coursework requirements for general education candidates but does require the completion of 32 semester hours leading to an elementary education major.
In addition, Illinois articulates teacher standards that address important areas such as U.S., world and children's literature; life and physical sciences; and U.S. and world history. However, the state's standards fail to mention some important areas such as world history, basic chemistry, American government and art history.
There are additional standards within the framework of the ICTS content test, such as Illinois, U.S. and world history. However, they still lack specific mention of important areas such as art history.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Illinois Administrative Code, IAC 23 Ch. I Sections 24.10-120, 25.25; IAC 26.300 Subpart B Illinois Certification Testing System www.icts.nesinc.com
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Illinois 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.
Illinois should also require separate passing scores for each content area on its test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Illinois should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Illinois should either articulate a more 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Illinois teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
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.
Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has been meeting with stakeholders for the past few months to redefine elementary (K-5) and middle (6-8) levels. Newly passed legislation, awaiting the governor's signature, will move Illinois to a new licensure system, which will allow for programs specifically designed for these new levels.
Illinois also indicated that this group has developed literacy standards for teachers of elementary and middle grades that all teachers must meet. It is also completing standards for English/language arts, mathematics, science and social science. According to the state, this decision to change grade levels is based on the Common Core, and standards (in reading and math) have been aligned. Further, Illinois plans to develop new assessments once rules are in place, and the state will require passing scores for each subarea within the elementary contest test and separate content tests for middle grades.
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.