Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Utah

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should distinguish between the preparation of middle school and elementary teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/UT-Middle-School-Licensure-Deficiencies-91

Analysis of Utah's policies

Unfortunately, Utah allows educators to teach in grades 4 through 8 in an elementary setting. Candidates with an elementary license 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.

Teachers with an elementary generalist license wishing to teach grades 7 or 8 in a secondary setting can hold "an elementary or secondary license area of concentration with the appropriate endorsement for all assigned courses."

Utah offers, but does not require, secondary licenses (grades 6-12) for candidates that want to teach middle school grades. Teachers with an elementary generalist license wishing to teach in traditional middle school settings must "add the appropriate subject/content endorsement for all assigned courses."


Citation

Recommendations for Utah

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.


State response to our analysis

Utah recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

3B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies 

  • Specific Licensure: The state should not permit middle school teachers to teach on a generalist license that does not differentiate between the preparation of middle school teachers and the preparation of elementary teachers.
Specific Licensure
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires teachers to teach on a middle school license (No K-8). 
  • 1/2 credit: The state will earn one half credit for either maintaining specific requirements limiting elementary teachers ability to teach in departmentalized middle schools or requiring teachers holding a K-8 license to demonstrate some relevant content knowledge at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it offers a K-8 license or a K-8 license in addition to a middle school license, allowing elementary teachers to teach single subjects at the middle school level without passing single-subject tests, or if the state offers a K-8 license and teachers can teach grades 7 and 8 in a self-contained classroom. 

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.