2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
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 Tennessee 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.
Tennessee requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In addition, all teachers in Tennessee are required to complete a general education core curriculum, which must comprise approximately 50 percent of the 120 semester hours of coursework required for the baccalaureate degree. Coursework must include communication, humanities and the arts, social science and culture, and science and technology. These are good requirements, but they may be too broad to guarantee that the courses used to meet them will be relevant to the topics taught in the PK-6 classroom.
Elementary teacher candidates are specifically required to complete a major "consisting of courses offered primarily by faculty from arts and sciences disciplines." Examples include an interdisciplinary major that includes study in English, science and social studies; an interdisciplinary major in two disciplines from the arts and sciences; or a major in a single discipline from the arts and sciences.
Finally, Tennessee has articulated elementary teaching standards that allude to important areas of academic knowledge. For example, the state's social studies standards make mention of civics, culture, geography, history and economics. However, Tennessee's standards lack specificity, leaving gaps in a number of important areas such as American, world, British and children's literature; world history; and art history.
Tennessee Licensure Standards and Induction Guidelines (pages 2-1 and 6-1) Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Tennessee should ensure that its 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.
The state 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, Tennessee should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Tennessee should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish more 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.
Tennessee's policy requiring elementary candidates to earn an academic major is undermined because it may be met with an interdisciplinary major. Unlike an academic major, an interdisciplinary major will not necessarily enhance teachers' content knowledge or ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it does not provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree, as an academic major does.
Tennessee asserted that it has offered Common Core Standards training to its K-2 teachers because these are the grades where the Common Core Standards will be implemented this year. In the future, the state will continue to offer training as the standards continue to be implemented.