Content Knowledge for Teacher Candidates
Teacher candidates at St. Cloud State University know the content they plan to teach and demonstrate their knowledge and abilities in a variety of settings. At the initial level, the unit fully endorses the Interstate New Teachers Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) Principles as the foundation for indicators of best practice in preparing teacher candidates. The Minnesota Board of Teaching established the Standards of Effective Practice (SEP) as the core standards for teachers that are directly aligned with the INTASC Principles. Both the INTASC Principles and SEP Standards are aligned with the conceptual framework and documented through matrices. Within programs, the Minnesota Board of Teaching Program Standards are used as the foundation of course content and these standards are also directly aligned with the professional standards used by specialty organizations. Syllabi in the professional education unit are aligned with appropriate standards as well as the conceptual framework.
During spring semester 2007, the unit submitted 36 programs to the Minnesota Board of Teaching for extensive program review. The program review process requires programs to submit evidence that candidates have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate the content standards. Data are also submitted to the review team to demonstrate that candidates have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be successful. This past year, 33 programs received full approval until 2014; two programs (English as a Second Language (ESL), Middle School) are still out with reviewers pending approval. The Health Education Program was initially submitted to the Board of Teaching, but was subsequently pulled from the review process. The Health Education Program was suspended fall semester 2007 and will be integrated into the Physical Education Program over the next several years.
All programs within the unit incorporate four to six transition points whereby performance can be monitored as candidates work to gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions as outlined in institutional and professional standards. Transition points typically involve admission, assessments prior to clinical experience, assessments during clinical experiences, program completion, and post-graduation follow-up. Programs vary in the number of transition points; however, all programs include these basic benchmarks.
Candidates at the initial and advanced levels demonstrate content knowledge in a variety of ways throughout their program. The Minnesota Board of Teaching requires that all candidates successfully pass the Praxis I - Pre-Professional Skills Tests (PPST) for licensure. The PPST includes basic assessments of math, reading, and writing. Because of a focus on access and opportunity, Minnesota statute prohibits public institutions of higher education from requiring candidates to pass the PPST for admission into teacher education programs. As a result, programs require that candidates take, but not pass, the PPST as part of the admission transition point. A review of Praxis I data indicates that candidates are performing above the 80 percent standard; however, this is slightly lower than State pass rates. The three-year follow-up data indicate a pass rate equal to the State pass rate.
The Minnesota Board of Teaching also mandates that candidates successfully pass the Praxis II content exam before licensure is awarded. Candidates seeking an additional licensure or endorsement must also successfully pass the Praxis II content exam. A review of Praxis II trend data at the unit level indicates strong performance by candidates and pass rates exceed the 80 percent pass rate requirement of NCATE.
Program pass rates also remain high according to trend data. An exception to that rule is the pass rates within the elementary education program (Academic Content) that have dramatically declined across the State as a result of requiring teacher candidates to pass the Praxis II content exam in their specialty area (typically middle school). A specialty area is similar to a minor whereby candidates take three to five classes in the specialty area. Clearly, candidates do not have the knowledge of someone who majored in the content area; therefore, they are not passing the exam at high levels. Because this is a problem across the State, the Board of Teaching has made a commitment to change this requirement and has taken steps to initiate that process. To provide support for candidates, the College of Education Praxis Center has provided additional resources and training.
Key assessments at the initial level used to measure content knowledge include course measures, performance-based assessments, cooperating teacher surveys, follow-up studies, and employer surveys. A review of content knowledge trend data at the unit level indicates strong, consistent performance over time. Finally, an analyisis of grades for candidates in the unit as compared to students within the institution also provide a positive perspective related to content knowledge.
At the advanced level, the unit endorses the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which are aligned with the conceptual framework. Advanced programs also use standards from specialty organizations (i.e., CEC) that are directly aligned with State content standards when candidates are pursuing a licensure or an endorsement.
Candidates pursuing licensure at the advanced level must successfully complete the Praxis II Content Exam. Trend data for candidates at the advanced level indicate strong performance over the past five years. Between 2002 and 2007, 620 Praxis II content exams were taken by advanced program completers. Advanced completers passed in 605 instances, yielding a pass rate across years and programs of 97.6 percent. By far, the largest plurality of post-baccalaureate completers proved to be special education majors, who took 307 of 620 Praxis II examinations (49.5%), with a pass rate 99.0 percent (304/307).
A variety of key assessments are used at the advanced level including portfolio assessments, clinical and field evaluations, comprehensive examinations, and course-based measures. An analysis of data on advanced candidates indicates that candidates do have the content knowledge to be successful.
Summary: Candidates at the initial and advanced levels have the content knowledge to be successful in enhancing student learning as evidenced by a variety of internal and external data sources. Pass rates of national exams are consistently high within the unit and feedback from cooperating teachers and employers validate the belief that candidates are prepared in terms of content knowledge.