The state should distinguish between the preparation of middle school and elementary teachers. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Unfortunately, Washington allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license. Those teaching on this generalist license need only pass the content test required of elementary teachers. Therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.
Washington offers, but does not require, middle level (grades 4-9) content area endorsements in humanities, math, and science.
Prepare middle school teachers to teach middle school.
Washington 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. Washington 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.
Washington 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 should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance to ensure meaningful middle school content tests.
Washington was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state noted that it also offers a number of other content area endorsements matched to both middle level and secondary courses.
3B: Middle School Licensure Requirements
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.