Secondary Teacher Preparation: Colorado

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 a small part

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Colorado offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12. The state allows secondary teacher candidates to demonstrate content proficiency by either completing 24 semester hours of credit, as demonstrated through transcript evaluation, or by passing a content assessment, either the Praxis II or the PLACE, in the endorsement area.

To add an endorsement area to a license, secondary teachers in Colorado may fulfill subject-matter requirements by holding a degree in the endorsement area,  24 semester hours of credit in the endorsement area or the applicable content test.

Colorado 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 literacy standards for preparation programs.  According to these standards, teachers must be able to teach students how to "summarize, make inferences, draw conclusions and interpret complex information in literary, informational and technical texts." Teachers must also be able to teach students how to analyze and evaluate complex informational and technical texts for "literary elements and text features related to meaning."

These standards also require teachers to develop reading comprehension that incorporates content-area literacy.  For example, teachers must be able to  "teach the conventions, elements and text structures associated with informational texts drawn from history, mathematics, science and other content areas, including the author's purpose or stance, organizational plan, etc."

Regarding struggling readers, Colorado's literacy standards require teachers to "select, use and interpret formal and informal assessments of reading comprehension and use them to make instructional decisions and to plan instructional interventions targeted for improved student outcomes." A similar competency exists for reading fluency.







Citation

Recommendations for Colorado

Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates. 
As a condition of licensure, Colorado should require its secondary teacher candidates to pass a content test in each subject area they plan to teach to ensure that they possess adequate subject-matter knowledge and are prepared to teach grade-level content. 

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

Colorado 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 Colorado's literacy standards address complex texts, they do not ensure teachers' ability to incorporate these texts into instruction. The state is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the secondary grades have the ability to address the use of informational texts as well as incorporate complex informational texts 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, Colorado should also more specifically 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

Colorado indicated that the state's Educator Licensing Act is being updated and aligned with current state standards and initiatives.
The alignment work will include adoption of assessments for teachers that match the standards adopted in rule.

The state added that while Colorado statue states three options for professional competence, the Institutions of Higher Education in Colorado that engage in teacher preparation adhere to a common business practice of requiring secondary teaching candidates to pass an approved content assessment before entering into student teaching.


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.