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 Oregon 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.
In Oregon, elementary teachers are required to pass the ORELA Multiple Subject Examination, which consists of two subtests. The first subtest covers language arts, social science and the arts, and the second subtest covers mathematics, science, health and physical education. Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of this requirement.
In addition, the state does not specify any coursework requirements for general education or elementary teacher candidates, and it has only outlined a broad set of standards for programs to apply in preparing elementary candidates. The framework of the ORELA subject-matter test also articulates standards for elementary teachers. For example, in the area of social studies, teacher candidates are required to understand civics and government, economics, geography, and U.S. and world history. However, it still lacks specific mention of important areas such as American and world literature and art history.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Oregon Administrative Rules 584-060-0012, -017-0120 ORELA www.orela.nesinc.com
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Oregon should ensure that its subject-matter test 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 Oregon 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. Oregon should also not allow any waivers of its content tests.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Oregon should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish 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.
Require at least an academic concentration.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Oregon teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
Ensure that arts and sciences faculty teach liberal arts coursework.
Although an education professor is best suited to teach effective methodologies in subject instruction, faculty from the university's college of arts and sciences should provide subject-matter foundation.
Oregon recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has completed an analysis of the current ORELA multiple-subjects test and will be examining the results at the November 2011 Commission meeting. The Commission will consider the adoption of a test more closely aligned with the CCSS.
In addition, while Oregon may soon be considering minimum coursework requirements for elementary teachers (and other general education teachers), due to the graduate nature of most of its teacher preparation programs, the undergraduate coursework would necessarily be taught by liberal arts faculty. The state noted that approximately 88 percent of Oregon completers are graduate students completing a post-baccalaureate or master's program. Graduate completers often complete their undergraduate coursework elsewhere, other than the admitting university.