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.
Louisiana requires a middle grades certificate (grades 4-8) for all middle school teachers. Candidates must focus on two in-depth teaching areas that include language arts, science, social studies and mathematics. Each focus area consists of 19 credit hours total, including general education and focus-area coursework. The state also allows secondary teachers to teach middle school but they must earn a total of 31 hours of combined general education and focus-area coursework in the primary teaching area. They must also earn a total of 19 hours of coursework in a secondary teaching area.
All new middle school teachers in Louisiana are also required to pass a single-subject Praxis II content test to attain licensure; a general content knowledge test is not an option.
Commendably, Louisiana does not offer a K-8 generalist license.
Louisiana addresses some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students through its required assessment for middle school English teachers, the Praxis II Middle School English Language Arts (5047) test.
Neither state competencies nor other middle school content tests address incorporating literacy skills into all content areas.
Louisiana's competencies fully address the needs of struggling readers by requiring teacher candidates to know how to:
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 Louisiana'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.
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, Louisiana should also include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.
Close the loophole that allows teachers to add middle-grade levels to an existing license without demonstrating content knowledge.
Louisiana allows teachers to add middle school area endorsements to certificates with either 30 credit hours in the area or 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.
Ensure meaningful content tests.
To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, Louisiana should make certain that its passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Louisiana asserted that the state is preparing new teachers to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction and is preparing new teachers to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Louisiana indicated that the state requires all teachers to add middle school-area endorsements to certificates with 30 credit hours in the area or a passing score on a middle school content test, in addition to six semester hours of reading or the Praxis Teaching Reading exam and the Principles of Learning and Teaching 5-9. The state also referenced its Reading and Language Competencies.
Louisiana noted that only the undergraduate middle grades 4-8 require two in-depth teaching areas. The three alternate paths focus on one teaching area, and the secondary grades 6-12 focus on one teaching area.
In addition, the state pointed out that Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policy requires all teacher preparation programs to address State Content Standards, which are the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards require programs to prepare candidates who are sufficiently prepared to incorporate informational text into instruction and ensure that all new teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
The state added that teacher preparation programs are required to realign the teacher preparation curriculum to prepare preservice teachers to teach to the new CCSS, Compass and assessments. The CAEP and LDOE Partnership Agreement states that "Louisiana standards and institutional standards must be applied in the CAEP accreditation process."
Louisiana also noted that an ongoing review of this alignment is occurring as campuses provide documentation for their national NCATE/TEAC/CAEP accreditation and ongoing state approval. The state then referenced Bulletin 996: Standards for Approval of Teacher Education Programs Chapter 7.
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.