Secondary Teacher Preparation: Oregon

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 Oregon's policies

New licensure rules in Oregon now allow teachers to "accept any instructional assignment from prekindergarten through grade 12 within the scope of the subject-matter endorsement(s)."

The new endorsement rules, which are effective January 1, 2016, indicate that "the scope of the endorsement shall be determined by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) course codes associated with the endorsement."

The new rules seem to indicate that candidates must obtain a passing score on the applicable subject-matter test. However, the language in the new preliminary license and the endorsement requirements leave room for interpretation that at least in some instances, a preliminary license with a secondary endorsement may be issued after passage of a content test, "or otherwise complete endorsement requirements established by the Commission."

Although it is unclear which tests are required under this new licensing structure, the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Board (TSPC) still lists the National Evaluation Series (NES) subject-matter tests on its website.

Unfortunately, Oregon 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). Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers can now demonstrate subject-matter competence by one of two methods: achieving a "passing score on the applicable content test or complete Commission-approved coursework of forty-five quarter hours designed to develop competency" in the core subject area.

Oregon requires secondary English teachers to pass the NES English Language Arts assessment, which includes 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.

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

Oregon has no requirements for the preparation of secondary teachers that address struggling readers.

Citation

Recommendations for Oregon

Clarify test requirement.
Oregon should clarify the language regarding the preliminary license and secondary endorsements, making it clear that first-time licenses are not granted for secondary level endorsements without passage of the applicable subject-matter test.

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.

Oregon 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 Oregon's required secondary English language arts content test addresses informational texts, the state should ensure that this test really captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards. Oregon is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all secondary English language arts candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction.

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, Oregon should also—either through testing frameworks or standards—include literacy skills and using text as a means to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers.
Oregon should articulate requirements ensuring that secondary teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. While college- and career-readiness standards will increase the need for all secondary 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.

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Oregon 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). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

State response to our analysis

Oregon asserted that the state does not have a general science endorsement but offers integrated science, chemistry, biology and physics endorsements. The state does have a general social studies endorsement; however, Oregon asserts, candidates must pass all segments of the test in order to obtain the endorsement. Thus they must demonstrate content knowledge in all of the subject areas. (see Goal 1-H).

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.