The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.
South Dakota allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license. The state offers a middle-level endorsement (grades 5-8), which appears to only be required if the teacher is teaching in an organized junior high or middle school. Further, South Dakota only articulates that candidates must "know the subject matter they plan to teach"; it does not explicitly require a major or minor in the subject areas.
All new middle school teachers in South Dakota are also required to pass a Praxis II subject-matter test to attain licensure. However, only candidates who earn the middle-level endorsement are required to take subject-specific assessments. Those candidates who plan to teach middle school on the generalist license are only required to pass the general elementary content test, in which subscores are not provided; therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.
Eliminate K-8 generalist license.
South Dakota 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.
South Dakota should encourage middle school teachers who plan to teach multiple subjects to earn two minors in two core academic areas. Middle school candidates who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.
Require subject-matter testing for middle school teacher candidates.
South Dakota 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.
South Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.