Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that its teacher preparation programs provide elementary teachers with a broad liberal arts education, the necessary foundation for teaching to the Common Core Standards.
Virginia does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach a broad range of elementary content.
Virginia requires candidates to pass the Praxis II general elementary content test, which does not report teacher performance in each subject area, meaning that it is possible to pass the test and still fail some subject areas, especially given the state's low passing score.
Although the state does not specify general education requirements, all elementary teacher candidates in Virginia must complete a major in interdisciplinary studies or in Virginia's core academic areas, which include English, history and social sciences (i.e., history, government, geography and economics) and science. These are sensible indicators of important curricular areas, but there is no guarantee that the courses used to meet these requirements will be relevant to the PK-6 classroom.
Because elementary education candidates must earn an arts and sciences degree, this ensures that liberal arts coursework is commendably taught by arts and sciences faculty.
Finally, Virginia has articulated elementary teaching standards that are better than those found in many states and allude to important areas of academic knowledge. For example, in the area of history and social sciences, elementary teacher candidates are expected to understand:
Virginia Administrative Code 8 VAC 20-542-110 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
Virginia should require separate passing scores for each content area on the test because without them it is impossible to measure knowledge of individual subjects. Further, to be meaningful, Virginia should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
Although Virginia outlines a more specific set of content standards than most states, the state should either articulate an even more specific set of standards or establish more comprehensive coursework requirements that are specifically geared to the areas of knowledge needed by PK-6 teachers. An adequate curriculum is likely to require approximately 36 credit hours in the core subject areas of English, science, social studies and fine arts.
Require at least an academic concentration.
Virginia's policy requiring elementary candidates to earn an academic major is undermined because it may be met with an interdisciplinary major. Unlike an academic major, an interdisciplinary major will not necessarily enhance teachers' content knowledge or ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it does not provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree, as an academic major does.
Virginia asserted that content outlined in student standards must be addressed in the elementary program as well as the outlined competencies. Each content area must include the knowledge, skills and processes of history and the social sciences disciplines as defined in the state's Standards of Learning, and how the standards provide the necessary foundation for teaching that content area.
The state also noted that individuals with a degree from a regionally accredited college or university with an interdisciplinary major may not have student-taught. If the individual is eligible for an alternate route, he or she must meet all content requirements for licensure even though that individual has an interdisciplinary major.
Virginia reiterated that individuals seeking an endorsement in elementary education must have an arts and sciences degree, and that these courses are taught by arts and sciences faculty.