Secondary Teacher Preparation: Louisiana

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part

Analysis of Louisiana's policies

Louisiana offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 6-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects.  

Unfortunately, Louisiana permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations).

To add a core subject area to a secondary license, teachers in Louisiana must either submit a passing score on the Praxis II content test or complete 30 credit hours in the content area. 

Louisiana addresses some of the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with these new standards and through its required assessment for English language arts teachers, the Praxis II English Language Arts: Content and Analysis (5039) test.

Neither teacher standards nor secondary tests in other content areas address incorporating literacy skills.

Louisiana's competencies fully address the needs of struggling readers by requiring teacher candidates to know how to:

  • Use assessment information to identify students' proficiencies and needs
  • Group students for small groups based on data, including small flexible intervention groups
  • Develop instruction that is targeted and linked to student deficits visible through screening assessments.

Citation

Recommendations for Louisiana

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 
Louisiana wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations).

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements. 
Louisiana should require passing scores on subject-specific content tests, regardless of other coursework or degree requirements, for teachers who are licensed in core secondary subjects and wish to add another subject area, or endorsement, to their licenses. While coursework may be generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers know the specific content they will need to teach.

Ensure that secondary 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 Louisiana's required secondary 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 secondary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, Louisiana should also include specific requirements regarding literacy skills and using text as a means to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

State response to our analysis

Louisiana stated that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education policy requires all teacher preparation programs to address State Content Standards, which are the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards require programs to prepare candidates who are sufficiently prepared to incorporate informational text into instruction and ensure that all new teachers are prepared to support struggling readers. The state also referenced its reading competencies required of all teachers. These competencies must be addressed by teacher preparation programs, including but not limited to the reading courses required by state statute.

The state added that teacher preparation programs are required to "realign the teacher preparation curriculum to prepare pre-service teachers to teach to the new CCSS, Compass, and assessments."

Louisiana also noted that an ongoing review of this alignment is occurring as campuses provide documentation for their national NCATE/TEAC/CAEP accreditation and ongoing state approval. The state then referenced CAEP standards and its teacher preparation program-approval standards.

How we graded

Research rationale

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. 
Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered.  A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history.  To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith. 

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license.
Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework.  As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge.  Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject. 

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. Particularly for secondary teachers of subjects other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute,March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

In addition, research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.

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.