Secondary Teacher Preparation: New York

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary 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.

Nearly meets

Analysis of New York's policies

New York offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, New York permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing a general social studies license without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations).

Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a content test. However, as stated above, New York cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add social studies endorsements. 

New York requires its secondary English teachers to pass the NYSTCE English Language Arts assessment, which includes 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.

Draft frameworks for the state's secondary social studies test require teachers to be able to incorporate literacy skills and use text to build content knowledge.

New York addresses the needs of struggling readers in its NYSTCE English test performance indicators.

Citation

Recommendations for New York

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 
New York wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy. This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

Ensure that secondary 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 York's required secondary English language arts content test addresses informational texts, the state should strengthen its policy and ensure that teachers are able to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.

Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject. 
New York is on the right track with the draft social studies test framework that includes literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge. The state should strengthen this policy and—either through new testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in science, technical subjects and the arts.



State response to our analysis

New York stated that candidates for adolescent subject areas must take the Content Specialty Test (CST) in their specific certification area: English/Language Arts, biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, social studies, mathematics or one of the world language titles. They are also required to submit an edTPA in the related content area: Secondary English/Language arts, mathematics, science or social studies or in world languages. According to the state, the edTPA contains a section that measures their skills and knowledge of literacy instruction.

New York then described the requirements for the edTPA. Candidates must:

  • Develop consecutive learning experiences that build on each other and are to be presented over the course of one week
  • Demonstrate instruction that promotes language and literacy development that occurs across disciplinary contexts
  • Develop learning experiences that include developmentally appropriate practices that promote the active and multimodal nature of young children’s learning and intentional support for language and literacy development in an interdisciplinary context
  • Provide instruction that is expected to attend to the interrelated processes of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and visually representing in a learning environment that supports the whole child and provides a healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging context for learning.
The state added that the The New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the New York State Board of Regents are in the process of revising all the content specialty tests required for teacher certification in New York. New CSTs are being designed to assess new teachers' mastery of knowledge in the content area they will be teaching and will be aligned with the NYS Learning Standards, including the NYS Common Core Learning Standards.

New York also described the efforts to assist the state's public higher education institutions with assimilating the new information on teaching and learning, including the incorporation and implementation of the CCSS into their programs. According to the state, Race to the Top funding was used to provide $10 million total to SUNY, CUNY and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and, in 2013, an additional $1.5 million was spent on faculty professional development.

In addition, New York indicated that it has provided a wealth of resources to support practicing teachers, teaching candidates and teacher preparation programs with the implementation of the CCSS.

How we graded

Research rationale

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. 
Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered.  A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history.  To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith. 

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license.
Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework.  As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge.  Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject. 

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. Particularly for secondary teachers of subjects other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute,March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

In addition, research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.

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.