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 Oklahoma has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
Oklahoma requires candidates to pass each of the two subtests that comprise the Certification Examinations for Oklahoma Educators general elementary content test. One subtest includes reading, language arts and social studies, and the other includes mathematics, science, health and fine arts.
In addition, all teacher candidates in Oklahoma are required to complete general education courses that address the arts, communication, history, literature, philosophy, sciences, English, government and the social sciences. These are sensible requirements, but they may be too general to ensure that the courses used to meet them will be focused on topics relevant to the PK-6 classroom.
Oklahoma also requires that all elementary teacher candidates complete 12 credit hours each in social studies, English and science. These are also good requirements; however, the state's lack of specificity regarding these courses could lead to gaps in preparation. Notably, Oklahoma policy explicitly disallows professional education coursework from being counted toward fulfillment of this requirement, an important proviso that most states have overlooked.
Finally, Oklahoma has adopted NCATE's Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) standards for approving its elementary programs. However, ACEI standards fall far short of the mark by offering no mention of world and American history; world, British and American literature; American government; or grammar and composition. ACEI standards do mention important topics in science, but even in those areas, its standards consist mainly of extremely general competencies that programs should help teacher candidates to achieve.
Oklahoma Administrative Code 712:10-5-3 Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Academic Affairs Procedure Handbook, 3.21.4 Certification Examinations for Oklahoma Educators www.ceoe.nesinc.com
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Oklahoma 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.
Although Oklahoma is on the right track by administering a two-part licensing test, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas, the state is encouraged to further strengthen its policy and require separate passing scores for each subject on its multiple-subject test.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Oklahoma 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.
Oklahoma asserted that teacher candidates in early childhood, elementary and special education have subject-area concentrations that allow qualification as a generalist. To qualify as a generalist, candidates must document competency in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies as identified in the NCATE curriculum guidelines and the state's subject-matter competencies.
Oklahoma also noted that candidates must complete 12 hours each in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies, and these hours may not be in the professional education course sequence. Further, candidates must document that they meet subject-matter competencies in each of these areas. "These 48 credit hours of generalist coursework are well in excess of the approximately 36 credit hours of coursework that NCTQ suggests is necessary to ensure appropriate depth in core subject areas."
The state added that although the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation does not articulate which courses must be taken, the rule does specify that candidates must document competencies as identified by NCATE and the state for early childhood, elementary and special education, in the manner ensuring that coursework is geared to the area of knowledge needed by teachers in each of these areas.