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A Licensing Dilemma for Middle School Math

My recent story on the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematicss, or TEDS-M, brings up an interesting issue, and one that didn't get a lot of discussion in the study itself. The issue is: Should middle school math teachers earn a K-8 certification or one that is geared more to secondary school teaching?

Across the country, states differ in the sort of certification they require at that level. Some insist on a K-8 certification. Others require a middle school credential or a secondary credential. The latter enables a teacher to teach students from 6th or 7th grade through 12th grade. According to Hank Kepner, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, states are about evenly split between the K-8 license and one that leans more toward secondary teaching.

In this study, which was conducted by William H. Schmidt and his colleagues at the Center for Research in Math and Science Education at Michigan University, researchers found that the preservice teachers with the deepest knowledge of math were those with a secondary credential, followed by the teachers seeking certification specific to teaching middle school. These middle and high school-oriented teachers, in fact, significantly outperformed their counterparts working toward a K-8 credential. Not a surprise, I would say, since those teachers would have been exposed to more-advanced mathematics in their coursework.

The really important question is: Who would make the better middle school teacher, the one with the K-8 license or the one who has middle grades or secondary certification? I'd love to see the research on that.

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