Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
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 Michigan 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.
Michigan requires candidates to pass the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas.
In addition, all teacher candidates in Michigan must complete an approved program of general or liberal education, including English, literature, humanities, social sciences, natural or physical sciences, and the arts. These are sensible requirements, but they are too ambiguous to guarantee that the courses used to meet them will be relevant to the topics taught in the PK-6 classroom.
Elementary teacher candidates in Michigan are also required to complete one of the following sets of coursework: a major of not less than 30 semester hours or a group major of 36 semester hours along with a planned program minor of 20 semester hours in "other substantive fields deemed appropriate to elementary education," or three minors of not less than 20 semester hours each with two being in substantive fields that may include a group minor of 24 semester hours and the third being a minor of 20 semester hours or a group minor of 24 semester hours in a content area appropriate to elementary education.
Michigan also articulates teacher standards that include detailed descriptions of the knowledge teachers must have in important areas such as life, earth and space science; history, geography, political science and economics; and visual and performing arts. Although these standards are better than those found in most states, they could benefit from additional specificity to ensure that teachers have acquired the basic knowledge in areas such as British literature and art history.
Further, objectives for the MTTC content test require sensible fields of study, including U.S. history and geography; life, physical and earth sciences; and art and music. However, they do not make specific mention of important subject areas such as world history and British and American literature.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
SOAHR Administrative Code Teacher Certification Code R 390.1122, .1123, .1126 Certification Standards for Elementary Teachers http://www.mi.gov/documents/mde/Elementary_Standards_JAN2008_231066_7.pdf Michigan Test for Teacher Certification www.mttc.nesinc.com
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Michigan 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, Michigan should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Although Michigan outlines a more specific set of content standards than most states, the state should either articulate an even more detailed set of standards or establish more 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.
Michigan's policy requiring elementary candidates to earn an academic major or minor is undermined because it may be met through a "group" approach. Unlike an academic major or minor, this approach will not necessarily enhance teachers' content knowledge or ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it does not provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree, as an academic major does.
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.
Michigan recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that based on new elementary standards, an elementary education test is being developed with two separate assessments that must be passed separately. The first assessment will include English language arts/world language, social studies, and visual and performing arts. The second will include mathematics, science, health education and physical education. Michigan anticipates that this new test will be operational beginning October 2013.
Further, the state noted that the MTTC basic skills subtests for mathematics and writing are being revised to align with Michigan's mathematics high school content expectations, which align with the Common Core Standards for mathematics and the Common Core Standards for English writing and language, respectively. These subtests are also due to be operational beginning October 2013.
While two separate assessments with separate passing scores is a step in the right direction, the state should guarantee that its content test ensures appropriate subject-matter knowledge in all major academic areas that elementary candidates will teach.