Middle School Content Knowledge: North

2017 Secondary Teacher Preparation 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 career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Nearly meets

Analysis of North Carolina's policies

Content Test Requirements: North Carolina requires a middle-grades (6-9) certificate for all middle school teachers. Middle school teachers in North Carolina are required to pass a single-subject Praxis II content test; a general content knowledge test is not an option. North Carolina also allows teachers with an existing license to add a teaching area with either coursework or a passing score on a content test.

However, the state allows teachers to fulfill this testing requirement in their second year of teaching, provided they attempt to pass the assessments during their first year.

Academic Requirements: North Carolina clearly requires that candidates must complete a teacher preparation program, but its requirements are somewhat more ambiguous regarding coursework requirements.


Recommendations for North Carolina

Require content testing in all core areas prior to entering the classroom.
North Carolina should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure. Allowing teachers to delay passage of the test until the teacher has already been in the classroom for two years does not ensure that every teacher has adequate subject-matter knowledge. To ensure meaningful middle school content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
North Carolina should encourage middle school teachers 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 North Carolina who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.

Close the loophole that allows teachers to add middle-grade levels to an existing license without demonstrating content knowledge.
NCTQ urges the state to require that all teachers who add the middle-grade levels to their certificates pass a rigorous subject-matter test to ensure content knowledge of all subject areas before they teach in a classroom as the teacher of record.

State response to our analysis

In response to NCTQ's analysis of academic requirements, North Carolina cited portions of Senate Bill 599 (2017)
S599 115C-269.2(1 & 4)

"(1) All EPPs shall include instruction in the following:
a. The identification and education of children with disabilities.
b. Positive management of student behavior and effective communication techniques for defusing and de-escalating disruptive or dangerous behavior.
c. Demonstration of competencies in using digital and other instructional technologies to provide high-quality, integrated digital teaching and learning to all students.
d. The skills and responsibilities required of educators.
e. The expectations for student performance based on State standards.
f. The supply of and demand for educators in this State, as identified in the vacancy report required by G.S. 115C-299.5(e).
g. The State's framework for appraisal of educators EPPs providing training for middle and high school teachers shall include the following:
a. Adequate coursework in the relevant content area. For clinical residency programs, students may instead demonstrate mastery of the relevant content area through the passage of the relevant content area examination approved by the State Board.
b. Adequate coursework in the teaching of the relevant content area.
c. For EPPs providing training for science teachers, adequate preparation in issues related to science laboratory safety

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

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 can be especially problematic. States need 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. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] 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.

[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf