Middle School Teacher Preparation : Rhode
Island

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

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

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Rhode Island requires a middle school endorsement for middle school teachers. In addition to either an elementary or secondary certificate, all middle school teachers must also have either 21 credits in the content area and pass the specific Praxis content test, or earn a major in the content area. Regrettably, Rhode Island also allows middle school teachers to teach on the elementary teaching certificate, "where grades 7 and 8 are organized on the elementary school plan."

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Prepare middle school teachers to teach middle school.
Rhode Island should not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and that of elementary teachers. These teachers are less likely to be adequately prepared to teach core academic areas at the middle school level because their preparation requirements are not specific to the middle or secondary levels and they need not pass a subject-matter test in each subject they teach. Adopting middle school teacher preparation policies for all such teachers will help ensure that students in grades 7 and 8 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade level content, which is different and more advanced than what elementary teachers teach.  

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
Rhode Island should encourage middle school teachers who plan to teach multiple subjects to earn two minors in two core academic areas. However, Rhode Island should require a subject-area major for middle school candidates who intend to teach a single subject. 

Require subject-matter testing for middle school teacher candidates.
Rhode Island should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure.

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that regulatory changes to certification being released for public comment will no longer include the clause allowing elementary educators to teach in grades 7 and 8 if organized on an elementary plan. This has been in place for many years to accommodate very small districts with only one school. Rhode Island noted that even these schools are already requiring grades 7 and 8 teachers to hold middle school endorsements to meet content needs. "The clause in the elementary regulations is outdated and is not reflective of state practice. We do not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license."  

In addition, the state pointed out that all middle-level teachers must be highly qualified for their positions, which means all middle-level teachers must have a major or minor and pass a test in the content area. Further, middle school teachers must have at least 21 credits in each core content area and pass each test.

Research rationale

A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. U.S. Department of Education. Foundation for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education (2008).

For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see Dee and Chodes, "Out-of-Field Teaching and Student Achievement; Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review (2008); as B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of 8th grade teachers," in NSF/NELS 88: Teacher transcript analysis (Rockville, MD: Westat, 1995); H. Wenglinsky, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back Into Discussions of Teacher Quality (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2000). For information on the "ceiling effect," see D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "When should we reward degrees for teachers?" in Phi Delta Kappan 80, No. 2 (1998): 134-138.