Middle School Content Knowledge: New York

Secondary Teacher Preparation 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 career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Middle School Content Knowledge: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NY-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-84

Analysis of New York's policies

Content Test Requirements: New York offers single-subject certifications for grades 5-9. These candidates must pass a single-subject content test. For K-8 schools that offer non-departmentalized middle grades, New York requires a Generalist in Middle Childhood Education (grades 5-9) certificate. These candidates must pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination (NYSTCE) middle school multi-subject content specialty test, which, according to the framework, is divided into three separately scored subtests. The first includes literacy and English language arts, the second focuses on math and the third combines arts and sciences.

Academic Requirements: Middle School candidates in New York must also earn a bachelor's degree or higher that must include: a general education core in the liberal arts and sciences, a content core, and a pedagogical core. Candidates can fill the content core requirements by completing a major or the equivalent in a core subject or liberal arts and sciences.


Recommendations for New York

Require content testing in all core areas.
As a condition of initial licensure, all candidates teaching multiple subjects in the middle grades in New York should have to pass a subject-matter test in every core academic area they intend to teach. New York is on the right track by administering a three-part licensing test for those teaching in K-8 schools, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas. However, the state is encouraged to further strengthen its policy and require separate passing scores for each subject on its multiple-subject test. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
New York should encourage middle school teachers 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

New York noted that the Multi-Subject Content Specialty test consists of three parts: 1) literacy and English language arts, 2) mathematics, and 3) art and sciences where 40% of this part's test score is based on science and technology, 40% is based on social studies, and 20% is based on fine arts, health and fitness, family and consumer science, and career development. The state asserted that the Multi-Subject: Teachers of Middle Childhood (Grades 5-9) Test addresses every core academic area in which the middle school generalist is certified to teach.

Updated: December 2017

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