2011 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.
Minnesota is on the right track in ensuring that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach a broad range of elementary content.
In Minnesota, elementary teachers are required to pass each of the three subtests that comprise the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations (MTLE) elementary education test. The first subtest includes reading and communication arts; the second one includes math and health/fitness and fine arts; and the third subtest includes science and social studies.
Although the state does not specify any coursework requirements for general education or elementary teacher candidates, it does specify that those in teacher preparation programs must "complete a program of general studies in the liberal arts and sciences equivalent to the requirement for persons enrolled in programs not preparing persons for teacher licensure," and that the "liberal arts curriculum of the institution incorporates multicultural and global perspectives."
In addition, Minnesota articulates standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary content areas, including literature, science and health. However, these standards are too ambiguous and offer little guarantee that elementary teacher candidates will receive instruction in core topics like English literature, world history, or American history and government.
The state also outlines content standards as part of its MTLE content test, which are better than those found in most states. For example, elementary teachers must demonstrate knowledge of "children's and young adolescents' literature representing a range of genres, eras, perspectives, and cultures." Minnesota also requires knowledge of "historical and modern perspectives" in both U.S. and world history.
Minnesota Administrative Rules 8700.7600 and 8710.3200 Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations www.mtle.nesinc.com
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Although Minnesota is on the right track by administering a three-part licensing test, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas, the state is encouraged to further strengthen its policy and require separate passing scores for each subject on its multiple-subject test.
Require at least an academic concentration.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Minnesota 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.
Minnesota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that prior to 2010, elementary candidates in Minnesota were required to earn a specialty area endorsement in addition to the K-6 license. "Our experience demonstrated that the K-6 plus specialty design presented significant challenges for our colleges and universities that sought to deliver a depth of preparation in areas such as reading and meeting the needs of special education students and English language learners. As such, we eliminated the specialty requirement and significantly increased the rigor and depth of required preparation in reading."