Teacher prep programs are failing to pay attention to the content knowledge teacher candidates need, and an astonishingly high number of elementary teacher candidates fail professional licensing tests teach year, according to a new report.

A new analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) reveals that few teacher preparation programs either conduct any sort of screening or require specific coursework in the subject area knowledge traditionally taught in elementary grades.

The fact that more candidates fail their professional exams on their first attempt (54 percent) than pass them suggests a lack of adequate preparation and lies in stark comparison to other professions–nursing, for example, achieves an 85 percent first-time pass rate, according to the report.

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Teacher candidates who do not pass these tests, even though they have finished their program of study, are generally denied a standard license to teach by their state.

The report examined the undergraduate course requirements for teacher prep programs at each of 817 institutions, including both the general education coursework required of all students at an institution and the coursework required by the education program:

  • A tiny percentage of teacher prep programs (3 percent) require courses to ensure candidates gain foundational knowledge across science topics. For example, instead of directing teacher candidates to a basic chemistry course (or first requiring evidence of the candidate’s knowledge of chemistry), candidates often have a choice of courses, such as how chemistry is used in art restoration or herbal medicines. Further, while some courses appear to be suitable, they are often too narrow in scope (e.g. “Lightning and Thunderstorms”) to benefit a teacher who lacks a broad knowledge of science.
  • Only a quarter of teacher prep programs (27 percent) require sufficient coursework in mathematics.
  • History, geography, and literature courses aligned with elementary standards are similarly absent from course requirements. For example, only half of all teacher prep programs even require an adequate course in children’s literature, in spite of the fundamental role it plays in all elementary curricula.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura