Middle School Content Knowledge: Utah

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy


The state should ensure that middle school teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of appropriate grade-level content. This goal has been revised since 2017.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Middle School Content Knowledge: Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/UT-Middle-School-Content-Knowledge-91

Analysis of Utah's policies

Content Test Requirements: Utah's secondary licenses cover grades 6 to 12, thus, spanning the middle school grades. The state also offers a middle-level science and math endorsement.

Effective January 1, 2020, candidates for Utah's associate educator license (which is the state's initial license) will be required to have a bachelor's degree or be enrolled in, but not complete, an educator preparation program. This initial license is valid for two years and may be renewed. Teachers must complete a teacher preparation program and have a bachelor's degree in order to obtain a professional educator license. Additionally starting January 1, 2020, secondary candidates can demonstrate content knowledge using one of the following:

  • Pass a content test,
  • Have a bachelor's degree or higher,with a major in the content area or
  • Be currently enrolled in a program that will result in a bachelor's degree.
Candidates for opting to pass the content test will have to pass the Praxis secondary single-subject tests or the middle-level science and math exams depending on their endorsement.

Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Utah allows teachers to teach in an elementary setting through grade eight. 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.

Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional
and Emergency Licensure
, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.


Recommendations for Utah

Require content testing in all core areas.
As a condition of initial licensure, Utah should require subject-matter tests for middle school teacher candidates that are sufficiently rigorous and are specifically aligned to the content that middle school teachers need to teach. The state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance to ensure meaningful middle school content tests.

State response to our analysis

Utah was helpful in providing facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also noted that the rules regarding the new licensing system are effective on 1/1/2020, but the old rules do not sunset until 6/30/2020. This means that the new system starts on 7/1/2020. The overlap is to allow for implementation and transition.

Updated: February 2020

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