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 Pennsylvania 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.
Pennsylvania requires candidates to pass the Praxis II test "Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment," which, unfortunately, not only combines content with a pedagogy assessment but also does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas. The state also requires the Praxis II test "Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge," which combines subject areas and does not report individual subscores. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current versions would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In addition, Pennsylvania requires that all teachers must complete at least six semester credit hours in college-level English composition and literature. The state also articulates a broad set of standards for programs to apply in preparing elementary candidates. Pennsylvania addresses many sensible areas such as earth/space, life and physical sciences; world, national, state and local history; and basic concepts in art, music, dance and drama. These are all important curricular areas, but these standards are far too ambiguous to set a meaningful standard for holding either programs or teachers accountable.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Pennsylvania should require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Pennsylvania should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Pennsylvania 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. 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 Pennsylvania 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.
Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.