Middle School Content Knowledge: Utah

2017 Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Meets

Analysis of Utah's policies

Content Test Requirements: Utah requires a secondary license (grades 6-12) for middle school teachers. All new middle school teachers in Utah are required to pass a Praxis II subject-matter test to attain licensure. Secondary teacher candidates teaching middle grades are also required to take subject-specific assessments.

Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Utah offers a generalist K-8 license. Because middle school licensure deficiencies are scored in 3-B "Middle School Licensure Deficiencies," it is not considered as part of the score for the Middle School Content Knowledge goal.

Citation

Recommendations for Utah

Require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates.
Utah wisely requires subject-matter tests for most middle school teachers but should address any deficiencies that undermine this policy (see 3-B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations).

State response to our analysis

Utah further clarified that the state's Elementary (1-8) license is only valid in 6th, 7th and 8th grades in an elementary setting. To teach in a middle school/junior high setting, such an individual would need to also hold the appropriate content endorsement (which would require passing the applicable content test). The latter example represents the vast majority of middle school-aged students in the state. The use of an elementary setting in these grades is limited to Necessarily Existent Small Schools and a handful of charter schools.



Updated: December 2017

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

Middle school grades are critical years of schooling. It is in these years that far too many students fall through the cracks. However, requirements for the preparation and licensure of middle school teachers can be especially problematic. States need to distinguish the knowledge and skills needed by middle school teachers from those needed by an elementary teacher. Whether teaching a single subject in a departmentalized setting or teaching multiple subjects in a self-contained setting, middle school teachers must be able to teach significantly more advanced content than elementary teachers. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] The notion that someone should be identically prepared to teach first grade or eighth grade mathematics seems ridiculous, but states that license teachers on a K-8 generalist certificate essentially endorse this idea.


[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf