Middle School Teacher Preparation : Utah

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Middle School Teacher Preparation : Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/UT-Middle-School-Teacher-Preparation--6

Analysis of Utah's policies

Utah requires a secondary license (grades 6-12) for middle school teachers. Candidates must complete a major (30 semester hours of credit). Endorsements are granted for all subjects in which candidates have at least a minor (16 semester hours of credit). Regrettably, the state also allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license, if they are in self-contained classrooms.

All new middle school teachers in Utah are also required to pass a Praxis II subject-matter test to attain licensure. However, only candidates applying for the secondary license are required to take subject-specific assessments. Those candidates who plan to teach middle school on the generalist license are only required to pass the general elementary content test, in which subscores are not provided; therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.


Recommendations for Utah

Eliminate 1-8 generalist license.
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. Adopting middle school teacher preparation policies for all such teachers will help ensure that students in grades 7 and 8 have teachers who are appropriately prepared to teach grade level content, which is different and more advanced than what elementary teachers teach.  

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
Utah should encourage middle school teachers who plan to teach multiple subjects to earn two minors in two core academic areas. However, Utah should require a subject-area major for middle school candidates who intend to teach a single subject. 

Require subject-matter testing for middle school teacher candidates.
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.

State response to our analysis

Utah asserted that teachers holding an elementary (1-8) license are only eligible to teach core content in a middle school setting if they have the appropriate content endorsement, which includes passing the appropriate content subject test.

The state pointed out that as of September 2012, those teaching grades 7-8 in an elementary setting will be required to take the new Praxis II content test, which will be comprised of four subtests. Candidates will have to earn a passing score on each subtest to pass the overall test. 

Research rationale

A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. U.S. Department of Education. Foundation for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education (2008).

For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see Dee and Chodes, "Out-of-Field Teaching and Student Achievement; Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review (2008); as B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of 8th grade teachers," in NSF/NELS 88: Teacher transcript analysis (Rockville, MD: Westat, 1995); H. Wenglinsky, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back Into Discussions of Teacher Quality (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2000). For information on the "ceiling effect," see D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "When should we reward degrees for teachers?" in Phi Delta Kappan 80, No. 2 (1998): 134-138.