Middle School Teacher Preparation: Michigan

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Michigan's policies

Michigan allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license if they are assigned to self-contained classrooms. Candidates are required to complete a major of not less than 30 semester hours or a group major of 36 semester hours, plus a "planned program" of 20 semester hours in "other fields deemed appropriate to elementary education." The state also allows teachers with secondary certificates to teach single subjects in middle school. Candidates must also complete a major of not less than 30 semester hours or a group major of 36 semester hours, plus a minor of 20 semester hours or a group minor of 24 semester hours.

All new middle school teachers in Michigan must also pass a subject-matter test, the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification. Although secondary teacher candidates and those adding a 6-8 endorsement to an elementary license must pass a subject-specific test, those teaching middle grades in a self-contained classroom on a generalist license need only pass the general subject-matter test for elementary education. Therefore, there is no assurance that these middle school teachers will have sufficient knowledge in each subject they teach.

The general elementary content test does not include the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students (see "Elementary Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction" analysis and recommendations).

Otherwise, secondary teachers may teach single subjects at the middle school level. These teachers are also not prepared to teach to these standards (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation" analysis and recommendations).

Citation

Recommendations for Michigan

Require content testing in all core areas.
Michigan 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. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.

Prepare middle school teachers to teach middle school.
Michigan 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. Michigan should 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. 
Michigan should encourage middle school teachers who plan to teach multiple subjects to earn two minors in two core academic areas. Middle school candidates who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.

Ensure that middle school teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction. Either through testing frameworks or teacher standards, Michigan should specifically address the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through increasingly complex informational texts and careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students.

Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject. To ensure that middle school students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Michigan should also include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers. Michigan should articulate requirements ensuring that middle school teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. While college- and career-readiness standards will increase the need for all middle school teachers to be able to help struggling readers to comprehend grade-level material, training for English language arts teachers in particular must emphasize identification and remediation of reading deficiencies.


State response to our analysis

Michigan was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. Michigan noted that while the state does not have hard data on the proportion of middle schools in Michigan that provide instruction in self-contained/all-subjects classrooms compared with those that provide departmentalized instruction, the understanding based on communication with the field is that the latter far outnumber the former in Michigan to the extent that the self-contained middle school classroom is the exception rather than the rule. According to the state, there is no middle school generalist certificate that authorizes a teacher to provide instruction in grades 6-8 independent of an elementary or secondary certificate.

How we graded



Research rationale

States must differentiate middle school teacher preparation from that of elementary teachers.
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 are among the weakest state policies. Too many states fail 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 do. 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.

College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction.
College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards.  Because middle school teachers in most states can be licensed either to be multi-subject teachers or generalists, middle school teachers need specialized preparation. Particularly for single subject teachers of areas other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute. 

Middle School Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
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. Foundations 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 T. Dee and S. Cohodes, "Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement: Evidence from Matched-Pairs Comparisons." Public Finance Review, Volume 36, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 7-32; B. Chaney, "Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics," in NSF/NELS:88 Teacher transcript analysis, 1995, ERIC, ED389530, 112 p.; 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, Volume 80, No. 2, October 1998, pp. 134, 136-138.

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.