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 Maine 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.
Maine requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In addition, Maine outlines two pathways that elementary teacher candidates can utilize to attain endorsement; only one of these pathways requires any coursework for elementary teacher candidates. Those choosing Pathway Two must complete a minimum of six semester hours each in English, science and social studies. However, this coursework is defined too broadly to guarantee that the courses used to meet the requirements will be relevant to the topics taught in the PK-6 classroom.
The state does articulate vague teacher performance standards, which include "knowledge of the central concepts, tools of inquiry and structures of the discipline that the applicant teaches...." Maine does not mention any specific subject-matter requirements making it far too ambiguous to set a meaningful standard for holding either programs or teachers accountable.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Maine 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.
The state should also require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Maine should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Maine should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish 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 Maine 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.
Maine recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that its "Purpose, Standards and Procedures for the Review and Approval of Preparation Programs for Educator Personnel" is undergoing a comprehensive review with recommendations for change due to the State Board of Education by March 30, 2012. Revisions will include adoption of the Common Core Teaching Standards with alignments to the Common Core Standards. Maine also noted that arts and science faculty teach liberal arts classes in all of Maine's teacher education programs.
Further, the state pointed out that it is committed to transitioning its PK-12 educational systems to standards-based learning environments where individual progress will be performance-based. "Consequently, our educator preparation programs will, of necessity, need to be redesigned so as to produce teachers and school leaders who will be prepared to operate effectively in performance-based learning environments."