The state should distinguish between the preparation of middle school and elementary teachers. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Unfortunately Utah allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license, if they are in self-contained classrooms. These candidates are only required to pass the general elementary content test. Although subscores are provided, this assessment does not adequately assess the content knowledge required of middle school teachers. Therefore, there is no assurance that all middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.
Utah offers, but does not require, secondary licenses (grades 6-12) for candidates that want to teach middle school grades. Teachers with generalist licenses who wish to teach in traditional middle school settings must "add the appropriate subject/content endorsement for all assigned courses."
Utah Administrative Code R277-504-4, -5; R277-530-5 and R277-520-4
Prepare middle school teachers to teach middle school.
Utah should not allow middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and that of elementary teachers. These teachers are less likely to be adequately prepared to teach core academic areas at the middle school level because their preparation requirements are not specific to the middle or secondary levels, and they need not pass a subject-matter test in each subject they teach. Utah should ensure that students in grades 7 and 8 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade-level content.
Require content testing in all core areas.
Utah should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure. The state's policy of only requiring middle school teachers who teach multiple subjects to take the same subject-matter test as elementary teachers is simply not adequate. Utah should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance to ensure meaningful middle school content tests.
Utah was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis. The state further indicated that the use of an elementary setting (self-contained classrooms) in middle school grades is limited
to Necessarily Existent Small Schools and a handful of charter schools.
3B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies
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. 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.