Middle School Teacher Preparation : Maryland

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Middle School Teacher Preparation : Maryland results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MD-Middle-School-Teacher-Preparation--6

Analysis of Maryland's policies

Maryland requires middle school education certification (grades 4-9) for all middle school teachers. However, these teachers are only required to complete a teacher preparation program; the state does not explicitly require a major or minor in these subject areas.

All new middle school teachers in Maryland are also required to pass a single-subject Praxis II content test to attain licensure; a general content knowledge test is not an option.

Citation

Recommendations for Maryland

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
Although Maryland is commended for not allowing middle school teachers to teach on a K-8 generalist license, it should strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation. Maryland 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.

State response to our analysis

Maryland asserted that its route for preparing middle-level teachers—an approved middle-level preparation program (4-9) based on National Middle School Association (NMSA) standards—requires depth and breadth in two content areas. Further, candidates are required to pass the appropriate middle-level content tests as a condition of licensure. While grade bands allow for some crossover of grade-level certification (e.g., secondary teachers may appropriately teach grades 7 and 8), actual certification at the middle level requires a specialized program.

Maryland also contended that it has two approved programs that lead to initial middle school certification. This program development resulted from actions of the Board of Education's decision to no longer issue a generalist license, which would allow new middle school teachers to teach on that license. This decision became effective July 1, 2009. Currently, other higher education institutions, in collaboration with the state, are in the process of developing middle-level preparation programs. 

How we graded

States must differentiate middle school teacher preparation from that of elementary teachers.

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.

Approved programs should prepare middle school teacher candidates to be qualified to teach two subject areas.

Since current federal law requires most aspiring middle school teachers to have a major or pass a test in each teaching field, the law would appear to preclude them from teaching more than one subject. However, middle school teacher candidates could instead earn two subject-area minors, gaining sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests and be highly qualified in both subjects. This policy would increase schools' staffing flexibility, especially since teachers seem to show little interest in taking tests to earn highly qualified teaching status in a second subject once they are in the classroom.  This only applies to middle school teachers who intend to teach multiple subjects.  States must ensure that middle school teachers licensed only to teach one subject area have a strong academic background in that area.  

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.