Middle School Teacher Preparation: New

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Middle School Teacher Preparation: New Hampshire results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NH-Middle-School-Teacher-Preparation-69

Analysis of New Hampshire's policies

New Hampshire offers a middle school (grades 5-8) license for middle school teachers and allows teachers with secondary certificates to teach single subjects.

Although the state allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license, candidates must have a content concentration in English/language arts, mathematics, social studies or general science and must obtain a passing score on the applicable Praxis II middle school single-subject content test. In addition, these candidates are required to pass the content test for elementary education. Although subscores are provided, this assessment does not adequately assess the content knowledge required of middle school teachers.

New Hampshire addresses some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students through its required assessment for middle school English teachers, the Praxis II Middle School English Language Arts (5047) test.

Testing frameworks in other content areas do not address incorporating literacy skills. However, according to the state's standards, social studies teachers must "promote adolescent literacy by using literacy strategies in order to foster comprehension and develop social studies skills." Middle-level science teachers must be able to "design activities and investigations which teach literacy through integrating" the following:

  • Knowledge of the methods of teaching reading, writing, communication and study skills essential to the effective mastery of middle school science content
  • Use of scientific drawings, diagrams, bulleted lists and graphing essential to science investigations and expression of ideas
  • Appropriate quantitative literacy skills and concepts into a science lesson.
Regarding struggling readers, New Hampshire's middle school English content test requires that a teacher "knows commonly used research-based approaches to grouping and differentiated instruction to meet specific instructional objectives in English Language Arts" and "understands commonly used research-based strategies for teaching adolescent reading." The state's standards also require teachers to do the following:  Design instruction to assist students' comprehension with increasing text complexity; and implement a variety of assessments to evaluate, monitor and adjust instruction.


Recommendations for New Hampshire

Require content testing in all core areas.
New Hampshire 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.

Eliminate the generalist license. 
New Hampshire should not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and that of elementary teachers. Requiring K-8 candidates to complete a core concentration and pass a Praxis II middle school level subject area exam is a step in the right direction. However, there is no assurance that candidates will have mastered middle-school level content in the other subject areas they are licensed to teach.  Stronger policy would be to eliminate the generalist license altogether. Adopting middle school teacher preparation policies for all such teachers will help ensure that students in grades 7 and 8 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade-level content, which is different and more advanced than what elementary teachers teach.

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. However, middle school candidates in New Hampshire who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.

Ensure that middle school teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.  

Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction. 
Although New Hampshire's English language arts content test for middle school teachers addresses informational texts, the state should strengthen its policy and ensure that teachers are able to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.

State response to our analysis

New Hampshire recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also acknowledged the potential weakness of the generalist K-8 elementary education license for grades 7-8. New Hampshire noted that the K-8 license is maintained, in part, to assist with staffing challenges in small, rural schools. New Hampshire stated that requiring at least one content concentration as a requirement for the K-8 license is a move toward increased rigor and that the state encourages educators to achieve the middle school-grade-range endorsements for specialized teaching assignments.

Research rationale

States must differentiate middle school teacher preparation from that of elementary teachers.
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 are among the weakest state policies. Too many states fail 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 do. 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.

College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction.
College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards.  Because middle school teachers in most states can be licensed either to be multi-subject teachers or generalists, middle school teachers need specialized preparation. Particularly for single subject teachers of areas other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute. 

Middle School Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. U.S. Department of Education. Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education (2008).

For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see T. Dee and S. Cohodes, "Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement: Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review, Volume 36, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 7-32; B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics," in NSF/NELS:88 Teacher transcript analysis, 1995, ERIC, ED389530, 112 p.; H. Wenglinsky, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back Into Discussions of Teacher Quality (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2000).

For information on the "ceiling effect," see D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "When should we reward degrees for teachers?" in Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 80, No. 2, October 1998, pp. 134, 136-138.

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.