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 South Carolina 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.
South Carolina now requires candidates to pass the Praxis II "Elementary Education: Instructional Practice and Applications" test. Regrettably, this is not an adequate assessment of content knowledge. The description of topics assessed and sample questions focus almost exclusively on methods and instructional strategies, and although it is a sound approach to assess pedagogical knowledge in the context of specific content areas, that does not mean that such a test measures content knowledge.
Although the state does not specify any coursework requirements for general education or elementary teacher candidates, South Carolina 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.
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
SC Board of Education Regulation 43-90 http://www.scteachers.org/educate/rulesregs.cfm Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
South Carolina is urged to require an elementary assessment that adequately tests subject-matter knowledge, rather than its current selection, which is more a test of pedagogy.
Further, the state should ensure that this 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.
South Carolina should also 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, South Carolina should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
South Carolina 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 South Carolina 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.
South Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. However, the analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
The state added that it has an integrated plan to implement the Common Core throughout its P-20 system and noted that it would be inappropriate for preparation programs to currently be aligned with the Common Core because it will not be used for student assessments until 2014-2015. NCATE and the appropriate Special Professional Associations (SPAs) are working to align preparation programs' curriculum to the Common Core, which will be synchronized with the implementation of Common Core in schools.
In addition to requiring elementary programs to meet NCATE's ACEI standards, South Carolina pointed out that it requires all programs to meet all applicable state Standards for Educator Preparation Programs, one of which relates to the preK-12 academic standards: "All educator preparation candidates must know, understand and demonstrate the use of national and state student academic achievement standards for all subject areas in which they will be certified to teach. Educator preparation units must provide assessment data to indicate that candidates know, understand, and can apply the appropriate South Carolina preK-12 academic standards."
Therefore, the state asserted, in order to meet this requirement, elementary education programs must demonstrate far more than "seat time" requirements for their candidates. Instead, programs must demonstrate that they effectively provide and assess specific content knowledge and skills that relate to all applicable state academic standards.
South Carolina also contended that NCTQ's recommended approach focuses on preparation inputs (i.e., "seat time") rather than on candidate performance. "It is important to give colleges of education (COEs) the flexibility to meet the needs of their candidates. We believe that the approach taken by programs like ABCTE and Teach for America is demonstrating that flexibility balanced with accountability is the best approach."
NCTQ strongly agrees that flexibility balanced with accountability is the best approach. The key to accountability, though, is a strong content test, and the state's current licensure assessment does not ensure that elementary candidates will be prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with the Common Core Standards.