Middle School Teacher Preparation: New York

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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.

Nearly meets

Analysis of New York's policies

For K-8 schools that offer nondepartmentalized middle grades, New York requires a Generalist in Middle Childhood Education (grades 5-9) certificate. These candidates must pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination (NYSTCE) middle school multi-subject content specialty test, which, according to the framework, is divided into three separately scored subtests. The first includes literacy and English language arts, the second focuses on math and the third combines arts and sciences. 

New York also offers single-subject certifications for the middle school grades. These candidates must pass a single-subject content test. 

Commendably, New York does not offer a K-8 generalist license.

New York's frameworks for both its NYSTCE English Language Arts test and Multi-Subject: Teachers of Middle Childhood assessment, which is required of K-8 educators who teach nondepartmentalized middle grades, include some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with the state's college- and career-readiness standards for students. The Multi-Subject test's framework further outlines performance indicators for "text complexity and instruction in text comprehension."

Neither teacher standards nor testing frameworks for other content areas address incorporating literacy skills. However, the draft framework for the Multi-Subject test indicates that Part Three: Arts and Sciences is a transitional test using content from the state's previous assessment. It will be redeveloped for implementation in 2015.

New York also addresses the needs of struggling readers in its performance indicators for both the English Language Arts and the Multi-Subject test.


Recommendations for New York

Require content testing in all core areas.
As a condition of initial licensure, all candidates teaching multiple subjects in the middle grades in New York should have to pass a subject-matter test in every core academic area they intend to teach. Although New York is on the right track by administering a three-part licensing test, thus making it harder for teachers to pass if they fail some subject areas, the state is encouraged to further strengthen its policy and require separate passing scores for each subject on its multiple-subject test. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.

Encourage middle school teachers licensed to teach multiple subjects to earn two subject-matter minors. 
This would allow candidates to gain sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests, and it would increase schools' staffing flexibility. However, middle school candidates in New York 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. Although New York's English language arts content test addresses informational texts, the state should strengthen its policy and ensure that teachers are able to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.

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, New York should also include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

State response to our analysis

New York stated that the Multi-Subject CST is not the only test Middle Childhood Generalist candidates must pass that measures their skills and knowledge of literacy instruction. The state also requires the edTPA for Middle Childhood Generalist 5-9 certification. New York indicated that consistent with state college and career readiness content standards, and the InTASC Standards, edTPA assesses teaching skills that focus on student learning.
New York noted the following elements of the edTPA:

  • Requires aspiring teachers to document and demonstrate their readiness to teach through lesson plans, instructional materials, student assignments and video clips of teaching, and analyses of teacher and student learning
  • Assesses a candidate’s skills and knowledge of literacy and mathematics instruction
  • Focuses on academic language, defined as the language of the discipline that students need to learn and use to participate and engage in meaningful ways in the content area
  • Addresses the oral and written language used for academic purposes and the means by which students develop and express content understandings
New York stated that when completing the NYS Elementary Education edTPA, candidates must develop and teach three to five consecutive literacy lessons, which must be consistent with the NYS Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English-Language Arts and Literacy, including those in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. The lessons must also include a learning segment that reflects a balanced literacy curriculum. The candidate’s understanding of the academic language within their edTPA submission is evaluated and used to inform the candidate assessment score.

New York also described the Elementary Mathematics Assessment Task of the edTPA, for which candidates develop or adapt a relevant assessment of student learning, analyze student work, and design re-engagement instruction to develop mathematics understanding, consistent with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000). According to the state, candidates' responses to this task must reflect a balanced approach to mathematics, including opportunities for students to develop conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and mathematical reasoning/problem-solving skills, as well as to communicate precisely about their mathematical understandings.

New York also described the efforts to assist the state's public higher-education institutions with assimilating the new information on teaching and learning, including the incorporation and implementation of the CCSS into their programs. According to the state, Race to the Top funding was used to provide $10 million total to SUNY, CUNY and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and in 2013, an additional $1.5 million was spent on faculty professional development.

New York also indicated that it has provided a wealth of resources to support practicing teachers, teaching candidates and teacher preparation programs with the implementation of the CCSS.

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.