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 Utah 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.
Utah has worked with ETS to create a new elementary content test, which will be comprised of four subtests with individual scores in math, reading and language arts, science and social studies. Candidates must pass each subtest to be eligible for licensure. This new test will be available in December 2011, and, as of September 2012, it will be the state's required assessment for elementary teacher candidates.
Although the state does not specify general education requirements, all elementary teacher candidates in Utah are required to complete an unspecified amount of "study and experiences" in areas that include language development and listening, speaking, writing and reading, with an emphasis on language development, biological and physical science and health, social studies and fine arts. These are sensible indicators of important curricular areas, but there is no guarantee that the courses used to meet these requirements will be relevant to the PK-6 classroom.
Utah has also 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.
Utah Administrative Code R277-504-7 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Utah should ensure that its new 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.
Further, to be meaningful, Utah should also ensure that the passing scores on each subtest reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Utah 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance Utah 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.
Utah pointed out that all teacher preparation programs are required to use the Common Core Standards beginning in the fall of 2012, and the state is providing professional development to all preparation faculty members. Further, requirements for academic concentration will be addressed in the program approval revision process during the 2011-2012 school year.