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.
Although West Virginia has adopted the Common Core Standards, the state does not ensure that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared to teach the rigorous content associated with these standards.
West Virginia requires candidates to pass the Praxis II test "Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment," which, unfortunately, not only combines content with a pedagogy assessment but also 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. Further, based on available information on the Praxis II, there is no reason to expect that the current version would be well aligned with the Common Core Standards.
Although the state does not specify any general education coursework, West Virginia does require that all elementary teacher candidates complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of combined coursework in areas such as English/language arts, health, physical education, science, social studies and the arts. The state specifically requires that this coursework be "relevant to the curriculum delivered in the elementary K-6 classroom."
In addition, West Virginia has adopted professional teaching standards (WVPTS) that offer broad expectations as to a teacher's requisite content knowledge. For example, teachers are expected to display "deep knowledge of the core content skills and tools and design instructional experiences that move beyond a focus on basic competency in the subject to include, as appropriate, the integration of 21st century interdisciplinary themes of global awareness, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy and health literacy."
Finally, there is no assurance that arts and sciences faculty will teach liberal arts classes to elementary teacher candidates.
Title 126 Legislative Rules, Board of Education, Series 114, Policy 5100, 6.3, Appendix A-2 Title 126 Legislative Rules, Board of Education, Series 136, Policy 5202 Praxis II www.ets.org
Require a content test that ensures sufficient knowledge in all subjects.
West Virginia should ensure that its subject-matter test for elementary teacher candidates is well aligned with the Common Core Standards, which represent an effort to significantly raise the standards for the knowledge and skills American students will need for college readiness and global competitiveness.
The state should also 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, West Virginia should ensure that these passing scores reflect high levels of performance.
Provide broad liberal arts coursework relevant to the elementary classroom.
West Virginia should either articulate a more specific set of standards or establish more comprehensive coursework requirements that are aligned with the Common Core Standards to ensure that candidates will complete coursework relevant to the common topics in elementary grades. 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.
An academic concentration, if not a full academic major, would not only enhance West Virginia teachers' content knowledge, but it would also ensure that prospective teachers have taken higher-level academic coursework. Further, it would provide an option for teacher candidates unable to fulfill student teaching or other professional requirements to still earn a degree.
Ensure that arts and sciences faculty teach liberal arts coursework.
Although an education professor is best suited to teach effective methodologies in subject instruction, faculty from the university's college of arts and sciences should provide subject-matter foundation.
West Virginia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is exploring the option of adopting a new Praxis II elementary education test, which will include subscores for each of the four content areas: reading, math, social studies and science.
NCTQ commends the efforts of states, like West Virginia, that have advocated for a new elementary education test from ETS. Requiring subscores for each of the content areas is a significant step toward ensuring that all elementary teachers possess the requisite knowledge for the classroom. NCTQ looks forward to reviewing West Virginia's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.