Elementary Teacher Preparation: Oklahoma

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation: Oklahoma results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OK-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-6

Analysis of Oklahoma's policies

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.

Citation

Recommendations for Oklahoma

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.

State response to our analysis

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.

Research rationale

Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s? Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21.

Research also connects individual content knowledge with increased reading comprehension, making the capacity of the teacher to infuse all instruction with content of particular importance for student achievement. See Willingham, D. T., "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens comprehension, learning—and thinking," American Educator 30(1), (2006).

For the importance of teachers' general academic ability, see R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes," Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies," Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

Sandra Stotsky has documented the fact that teacher candidates often make inappropriate or irrelevant coursework choices that nonetheless satisfy state requirements. See S. Stotsky, "Can a State Department of Education Increase Teacher Quality? Lessons Learned in Massachusetts," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy, ed. Diane Ravitch (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004).

On the need for colleges and universities to improve their general education coursework requirements, see The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2004). For a subject-specific example of institutions' failure to deliver solid liberal arts preparation see, The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).

For information on teacher licensing tests, see The Academic Quality of Prospective Teachers: The Impact of Admissions and Licensure Testing (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1999). A study by C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J.Vigdor of elementary teachers in North Carolina also found that teachers with test scores one standard deviation above the mean on the Elementary Education Test as well as a test of content was associated with increased student achievement of 0.011 to 0.015 standard deviations. "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" The Calder Institute (2007).
 
For information on where states set passing scores on teacher licensing tests across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).