Elementary Teacher Preparation: Texas

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

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

Analysis of Texas's policies

Texas is on the right track in ensuring that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach a broad range of elementary content.

Texas requires candidates to pass the Texas Examination of Educator Standards general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it may be possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas.

All teacher candidates in Texas are required to complete either an academic discipline major or an interdisciplinary major. In addition to the six semester credit hours of science required by the state's core curriculum guidelines, elementary education candidates must complete an additional six to nine semester credit hours in science (physical or life science, or a combination of the two). Education courses may not be counted toward the content course requirements.

Texas also articulates teacher standards that include important areas such as art history, children's literature, geography, economics and music. For example, in the area of history, teacher candidates must know:

  • How individuals, events and issues shaped the history of Texas, the United States and the world;
  • The foundations of representative government in the United States and the significant political and economic issues of the revolutionary era;
  • The challenges confronted by the U.S. government and its leaders in the early years of the republic;
  • Westward expansion and its effects on the political, economic and social development of the nation;
  • How political, economic and social factors led to the growth of sectionalism and the Civil War;
  • Individuals, issues and events of the Civil War and the effects of Reconstruction on the political, economic and social life of the nation; and 
  • Important issues, events and individuals of the 20th and 21st centuries in the United States and the world.
Although these standards are better than those found in most states, they could benefit from additional specificity to ensure that teachers have acquired the basic knowledge in areas such as American and British literature and world history.

Citation

Recommendations for Texas

Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Texas 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, Texas should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.

Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Although Texas outlines a more specific set of content standards than most states, the state should either articulate an even 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. 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.
Texas'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. 

State response to our analysis

Texas asserted that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) core curriculum requirements only apply to public institutions of higher education. The only requirements for private IHEs are the statute and the State Board for Educator Certification standards and rules. 

Texas also pointed out that it included the requirement for a separate reading test for elementary teachers in the released certification testing RFP (Request for Proposal). This would expand the number of test items in the content domains and the ability to provide subscores, and it would ensure that a generalist certificate is issued only after each content area has been passed. Candidates would be required to retake the domains/content areas that were not passed. 

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

Research rationale

Numerous research studies have established the strong relationship between teachers' vocabulary (a proxy for being broadly educated) and student achievement. For example: A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s? Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21.

Research also connects individual content knowledge with increased reading comprehension, making the capacity of the teacher to infuse all instruction with content of particular importance for student achievement. See Willingham, D. T., "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens comprehension, learning—and thinking," American Educator 30(1), (2006).

For the importance of teachers' general academic ability, see R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes," Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies," Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

Sandra Stotsky has documented the fact that teacher candidates often make inappropriate or irrelevant coursework choices that nonetheless satisfy state requirements. See S. Stotsky, "Can a State Department of Education Increase Teacher Quality? Lessons Learned in Massachusetts," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy, ed. Diane Ravitch (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004).

On the need for colleges and universities to improve their general education coursework requirements, see The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2004). For a subject-specific example of institutions' failure to deliver solid liberal arts preparation see, The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).

For information on teacher licensing tests, see The Academic Quality of Prospective Teachers: The Impact of Admissions and Licensure Testing (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1999). A study by C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J.Vigdor of elementary teachers in North Carolina also found that teachers with test scores one standard deviation above the mean on the Elementary Education Test as well as a test of content was associated with increased student achievement of 0.011 to 0.015 standard deviations. "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" The Calder Institute (2007).
 
For information on where states set passing scores on teacher licensing tests across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).