The purpose of this study was to investigate the response of colleges and schools of education to the newly created (2004) New York State middle childhood teacher certificate (Grades 5-9). The study explored different approaches to the translation and application of State policy at the college/university level.
Defining exactly what the field of middle level teacher education should look like forms the crux of the problem facing this field today. Complicated questions arise around issues of content knowledge, pedagogy, methodology, licensing, and marketability. The problem encompasses defining the field of middle school teacher education, attracting teachers of high-quality into this field, certifying these candidates appropriately, and retaining them at the middle level for years to come.
This study of middle level teacher preparation programs in New York State had two components. The first was to determine the number of colleges and universities in New York that, as of September 2005, had registered programs leading to the new Middle Childhood certificate, as well as those that offered an extension certificate and the number of certificates the State had issued to date. To provide an in-depth examination of what policy looks like when enacted, case studies of three specific middle grades certification programs in the State were then conducted.
The study revealed different pathways available to those interested in teaching in a middle school, and some of the ways in which policy gets implemented at the local level. It uncovered conflicting interests of purpose, uneven preparation, and the travails involved with a few fledgling programs. The role of alternative certification in the creation of, sustainability for, and purposes of 5-9 coursework in and around New York City proved substantial. These alternative pathways, led to certifying candidates, particularly in math and science, as 5-9 teachers when they could no longer meet the tougher content requirements for the 7-12 certification. Schools of teacher education in which faculty showed a commitment to fostering middle level coursework showed the most promise.
Although some progress is being made to develop and nurture the field of middle school teacher preparation, at this time, pockets of reform are small.