Middle School Content Knowledge: Montana

2017 Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Meets

Analysis of Montana's policies

Content Test Requirements: Montana offers middle-level certification (grades 4-8) for middle school teachers. All new middle school teachers in Montana are required to pass a secondary Praxis II subject-matter test to attain licensure.

Passage of the test is one part of three requirements for Montana's Assessment of Content Knowledge Verification.  A candidate's student teaching/clinical practice score, content knowledge assessment score, and overall GPA factor into an overall content knowledge score between one and ten.

Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Montana also offers a generalist K-8 license. Because middle school licensure deficiencies are scored in 3-B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Middle School Content Knowledge goal.

Academic Requirements: The state does not explicitly require a major or minor in the subject areas that prospective middle school teachers plan to teach. Teachers with secondary licenses may also teach single subjects in middle school. Secondary candidates in science or social studies must complete either a major in the core academic content area or its coursework equivalent.


Citation

Recommendations for Montana

Require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates.
Montana wisely requires subject-matter tests for most middle school teachers but should address any deficiencies that undermine this policy (see Goal 3-B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations).

Middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects should earn two subject-matter minors.
Montana should encourage middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects to earn two subject-matter minors. This would allow candidates to gain sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests, and it would increase schools' staffing flexibility.

State response to our analysis

Montana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.




Updated: April 2018

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

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 can be especially problematic. States need 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. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] 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.


[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf