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 North Dakota has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach a broad range of elementary content.
North Dakota requires candidates to pass the Praxis II test "Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment," which, unfortunately, not only combines content with a pedagogy assessment but also 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, all teacher candidates in North Dakota must complete a general studies component that includes "liberal arts preparation" in areas that include the humanities, fine arts, natural sciences, behavioral sciences and symbolic systems. Although these are reasonable general requirements, the state's language is not specific enough to ensure that these courses will be relevant to the topics covered in the PK-6 classrooms.
North Dakota does not specify additional subject-matter coursework requirements for elementary teacher candidates. Although elementary teachers must earn an elementary education major in order to attain licensure, the state only appears to require methodology courses in subject areas. Therefore, coursework is most likely taught by education faculty, not arts and science faculty, and may fail to provide strong foundational knowledge in these subject areas.
Finally, North Dakota articulates teacher standards in a broad range of topics relevant to PK-6 teaching, including reading and language; physical, life, earth and space science; dance, music and theater; and history, geography and social science. However, there are no standards for a number of equally important subject areas, including basic chemistry; American and world history; American, world and children's literature; writing, grammar and composition; and art history.
North Dakota Administrative Code 67.1-02-02-02 Program Approval Standards ND 50015 http://www.nd.gov/espb/progapproval/standards.html Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
North Dakota 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, North Dakota should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
North Dakota should either articulate a more specific 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance North Dakota 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.
North Dakota disagreed with this analysis but did not offer any further information.