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.
Indiana requires candidates to earn the middle school-setting certification with a content area. Their degree must include a major or content area that substantially applies to a content area listed in the state's certification regulations.
All new middle school teachers in Indiana are also required to pass a Pearson middle school content test to attain licensure; a general content knowledge test is not an option.
Commendably, Indiana does not offer a K-8 generalist license.
Indiana's assessment for middle school English teachers, the CORE Middle School English Language Arts test, includes some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Indiana's CORE middle-grades assessments in other content areas also address literacy skills.
Regarding struggling readers, the CORE English language arts test requires teachers to "have a broad and comprehensive understanding of content-specific instruction and assessment in English language arts, including ... strategies for differentiating instruction in English language arts to meet the needs of diverse learners, such as students with varying levels of reading proficiency or varying linguistic backgrounds." New legislation in Indiana also requires teacher preparation programs to prepare candidates to be able "to recognize that a student who is not progressing at a normal rate related to reading ...may need to be referred to the school's multidisciplinary team...."
Test Requirements http://www.in.nesinc.com/ House Enrolled Act 1108 (2015) Indiana Administrative Code 515 IAC 8-1-6; -6.1; 8-2-2 511 IAC 15-7-1
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.
Although Indiana's English language arts content test for middle school teachers addresses informational texts, the state should strengthen its policy and ensure that teachers are able to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.
Ensure meaningful content tests.
To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, Indiana should make certain that its passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Indiana was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that the Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA) III went into effect on January 16, 2015.
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.