Although prospective teachers work diligently in their teacher prep programs, more still needs to be done to prepare them for their first teaching assignment in a real-life classroom of their own. A National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report published earlier this year states that over half of elementary teacher candidates do not pass licensing tests due to insufficient preparation in college coursework.
Expanding the teacher workforce becomes even more challenging when teachers want to teach but are unable to attain a position because of poor exam scores. The same report found that only 46% of individuals pass licensing tests with African American candidates passing at 38%. This leads to gaps in teacher diversification across the country, as well as a shortage of qualified educators.
Most of these teacher candidates have significant holes in content knowledge that contribute to poor performance on standard licensing tests. NCTQ reports that about ¾ of the undergraduate teaching programs in the United States do not cover the amount of mathematical knowledge required for elementary teachers, while 1/10 do not adequately contain enough English basics.
Individuals enrolled in university teacher training programs should take courses that meet four attributes to ensure that they are adequately prepared not only to graduate but pass a licensing exam:
- Relevant to current teaching practices and topics found in elementary classrooms.
- Feasibly taught in one or two semesters rather than touching only on the basics in a broader course.
- Offer an assortment of content that teachers may need to know.
- Focus on the content and how to teach it.
Although teacher candidates can take courses that lack one or more of the above characteristics and they can be beneficial, these classes may not fit into an already heavy course schedule. Core knowledge is of primary importance and concern.
Many times, institutions of higher learning already offer relevant courses, so they don’t need to create new ones. Instead, teacher education programs should adjust their parameters to include general education classes to satisfy program requirements and help to ensure that future teachers can pass licensing exams anywhere in the country and be confident for the classroom.
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