Middle School Teacher Preparation : Illinois

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Middle School Teacher Preparation : Illinois results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IL-Middle-School-Teacher-Preparation--6

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Illinois allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-9 license. Teachers with secondary certificates may also teach single subjects in middle school. All candidates must earn a major of 32 credit hours in either "elementary education, or a field of specialization, as applicable to the type of certificate sought."

All new middle school teachers must also pass a general subject-matter test for elementary and middle grades from the Illinois Certification Testing System. This test reports teacher performance in each subject area for "descriptive" purposes only, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas. Therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.


Recommendations for Illinois

Eliminate K-9 generalist license.
Illinois should not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and that of elementary teachers. These teachers are less likely to be adequately prepared to teach core academic areas at the middle school level because their preparation requirements are not specific to the middle or secondary levels and they need not pass a subject-matter test in each subject they teach. Adopting middle school teacher preparation policies for all such teachers will help ensure that students in grades 7-9 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade level content, which is different and more advanced than what elementary teachers teach.  

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
Illinois should encourage middle school teachers who plan to teach multiple subjects to earn two minors in two core academic areas. Middle school candidates who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area. Illinois's requirement of an elementary education major is particularly troublesome because it suggests that a middle school teacher needs only the same preparation as an elementary teacher. However, the state should retain its requirement for a subject-area major for secondary candidates who intend to teach a single subject.

Require subject-matter testing for middle school teacher candidates.
Illinois 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.

State response to our analysis

Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state reiterated its comments for the previous goals and added that it is moving in the direction of this particular goal. Illinois plans to write rules for a separate middle-level program and will also develop new assessments based on specific content-area teaching. 

Research rationale

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. Foundation 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 Dee and Chodes, "Out-of-Field Teaching and Student Achievement; Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review (2008); as B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of 8th grade teachers," in NSF/NELS 88: Teacher transcript analysis (Rockville, MD: Westat, 1995); 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 80, No. 2 (1998): 134-138.