Middle School Content Knowledge: North
Carolina

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of appropriate grade-level content. This goal has been revised since 2017.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Middle School Content Knowledge: North Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NC-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-91

Analysis of North Carolina's policies

Content Test Requirements: North Carolina requires a middle-grades (6-9) certificate for all middle school teachers. Middle school teachers in North Carolina are required to pass a single-subject Praxis content test to attain licensure. North Carolina also allows teachers with an existing license to add a teaching area with either coursework or a passing score on a content test.

New legislation in North Carolina extends the amount of time teachers have to pass this content assessment, from two to three years if they attempt to pass the test during their first year of teaching.

Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional
and Emergency Licensure
, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for North Carolina

Require content testing in all core areas prior to entering the classroom.
North Carolina should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure. Allowing teachers to delay passage of the test until the teacher has already been in the classroom for three years does not ensure that every teacher has adequate subject-matter knowledge. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.

Close the loophole that allows teachers to add middle-grade levels to an existing license without demonstrating content knowledge.
NCTQ urges the state to require that all teachers who add the middle-grade levels to their certificates pass a rigorous subject-matter test to ensure content knowledge of all subject areas before they teach in a classroom as the teacher of record.

State response to our analysis

North Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: February 2020

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