Illinois State Board of Education

For Immediate Release
October 16, 2002
For Information: 217/782-4648

State Board calls for stronger requirements for middle-grade teachers

Responding to local educator concerns about creating a separate middle-grade teaching certificate, the State Board today voted instead to redesign the current middle-grade endorsement to ensure that middle-grades teachers have the content knowledge and the range of skills needed to meet the unique needs of their students.

The current system of K-9 elementary and 6-12 high school certificates allows a teacher with either of these certificates to teach in the middle grades.

“As a group, middle-grade students have been the most overlooked in our educational system,” said State Superintendent Robert Schiller. “Despite the fact that these students have academic and developmental needs unique to their age group, we focus most of our attention on academic and support services for primary and high school students. This is particularly true in teacher preparation. Today’s action is another step toward giving middle-grade students the high quality education opportunities they need and deserve.”

Instilling more focus and rigor into middle-grade teacher preparation so the teachers can better meet the needs of their students has been on the State Board’s policy agenda for almost two years. Initially, a study group recommended that a new middle school certificate for grades 5 to 9 be created; however, the group’s recommendations met with mixed reaction from the educational community.

Many teachers and administrators agreed that a new middle grade certificate would be desirable, yet they also expressed concern about the possible consequences of this change, including loss of flexibility in assigning teachers. They also expressed concern that the new certificate could decrease the supply of middle-grade teachers, because prospective teachers might not wish to limit their credentials to just the middle grades.

Based on survey information from local educators and the higher education community, Schiller decided that improving the endorsement would be the most appropriate action at this time and that like the proposed certificate, it would not apply to teachers who already hold elementary or secondary certificates. He recommended, and the State Board agreed, that the study group should redesign the middle-grade endorsement based on standards the group had developed for the proposed middle-level certificate. Each teacher preparation program would design coursework aligned to the standards selected for the endorsement.

The State Board implemented the current middle-grades endorsement in 1997. It was designed to supplement the elementary and secondary certificates to give teachers the specialized knowledge and skills appropriate for the middle grades. It compresses middle-grade philosophy, curriculum, instructional methods, assessment, diagnosis and other knowledge and skills into two courses.