Secondary Teacher Preparation: Oklahoma

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 Oklahoma's policies

Oklahoma offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12 or 9-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, Oklahoma permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing combination social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within this discipline (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, Oklahoma cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add combination social studies endorsements. 

The state's competencies for secondary English teachers mention that a teacher "understands and teaches strategies appropriate to a variety of forms (genres), text organizations, and structures, including functional print and informational print." According to the competencies, "informational print" includes reference materials, telephone books, almanacs and dictionaries.

Unfortunately, neither the state's competencies nor the CEOE English test required of secondary teachers goes far enough to ensure that teachers are adequately prepared for the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.

Neither the secondary tests nor the competencies in other content areas address incorporating literacy skills.

Regarding struggling readers, the secondary English competencies require teachers to use "a variety of assessment strategies to evaluate student proficiencies in the language arts and to modify instruction appropriately." However these competencies do not specifically address the ability to either identify struggling readers or to provide appropriate intervention.






Citation

Recommendations for Oklahoma

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.
Either through testing frameworks or teacher standards, Oklahoma should specifically address the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with college- and career-readiness standards for students.

Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
To ensure that secondary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Oklahoma should also include specific requirements regarding literacy skills and using text as a means to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers.
Oklahoma should articulate more specific requirements ensuring that secondary teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. While college- and career-readiness standards will increase the need for all secondary teachers to be able to help struggling readers to comprehend grade-level material, training for English language arts teachers in particular must emphasize identification and remediation of reading deficiencies.

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 

Oklahoma wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.




State response to our analysis

Oklahoma was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

In addition, Oklahoma asserted that the state does not have a general/umbrella social studies exam for secondary educators. In order to teach in a social studies field, candidates must pass the social studies exam that assesses their knowledge in the area of teaching. There are three such exams:1) World History/Geography, 2) Psychology/Sociology and 3) U.S. History/Government/OK History and Economics. (see Goal 1-H). 

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.