Middle School Teacher Preparation: South
Carolina

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.

Nearly meets

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina requires middle-level certification (grades 5-8) for middle school teachers. Candidates must complete two areas of concentration with at least 15 semester hours in each area.

All new middle school teachers are required to pass a Praxis II single-subject content test to attain licensure.

Commendably, South Carolina does not offer a K-8 generalist license.

South Carolina addresses some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with college- and career-readiness standards for students through its required assessment for middle school English teachers, the Praxis II Middle School English Language Arts (5047) test. The state's new competencies for middle and secondary teachers requires teachers to be able to "use knowledge of text complexity and student interests to match texts to readers and help students select texts with which they will be successful."

South Carolina now requires all middle school candidates to take six credit hours in literacy including a course in content-area reading. Programs must "ensure that all teacher candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills to assist effectively all adolescents in becoming proficient readers."  In addition, the state's new literacy competencies require teachers to "select and implement content area reading and writing instructional approaches based on evidence-based rationale, student needs, and purposes for instruction."

The new reading course requirements require teacher preparation programs to ensure that all "middle education teachers have the knowledge and skills to provide effective instruction in reading and numeracy to all students." Literacy competencies require teachers to be able to "differentiate instructional approaches to meet students' reading and writing needs in the content areas." However, there is no specification that teachers will be able to identify or assist struggling readers.





Citation

Recommendations for South Carolina

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 South Carolina's English language arts content test for middle school teachers 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, South Carolina should also—either through testing frameworks or teacher standards—include literacy skills and using text to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers. South Carolina should articulate more specific 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.

Ensure meaningful content tests.
To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, South Carolina should make certain that its passing scores reflect high levels of performance.

State response to our analysis

South Carolina was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

South Carolina also stated that disciplinary literacy is a primary focus of the state's recently adopted College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Arts 2015 for students PreK-12. These standards guide teachers to help students appropriately employ a variety of strategies to discern the meaning of increasingly complex texts and other modes of communication to form logical, evidence-based conclusions.



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.