(May 2006) Illinois State University’s Douglas Hatch, Curriculum and Instruction faculty member, is one of seven members of the National Middle School Association (NMSA) Teacher Preparation Advisory Board who are challenging state licensure agencies and universities to better prepare middle level teachers. NMSA, with 30,000 members, focuses on the education and well-being of young adolescents.

In a position paper presented at the National Forum meeting in Phoenix, the group stressed the need for specialized professional preparation for teachers of young adolescents and indicated that preparation is largely unavailable in much of the United States.

Hatch, who has worked in middle school teacher education for 13 years and taught eighth-grade math in the state of Washington, said NMSA is calling for establishing licensure specific to the middle grades. They posit that “each year, tens of thousands of teachers embark on careers as middle level educators without sufficient preparation to succeed.”

Sue Swaim, NMSA executive director, said, “In fact, regulations in some states allow virtually anyone, with any kind of degree or licensure, to teach young adolescents,” adding that is “equivalent to malpractice.”

NMSA lists components essential for effective middle level teacher preparation programs, including:

  • Expertise in the development and needs of young adolescents, which forms the foundation for classroom strategies from curriculum to assessment and beyond.
  • A solid grounding in the philosophy and organization of middle level schools and programs.
  • Broad and integrative knowledge of subject matter, with an emphasis on understanding the interrelationships among subject areas taught at the middle level.

The paper also focuses on the importance of collaboration to middle level education, stating that “In the middle level school, perhaps more than at any other educational level, the ability to collaborate successfully with a variety of stakeholders is critical” and states that educators “must be competent in successfully collaborating with multiple audiences to further the education of young adolescents—colleagues, families and communities.”

Hatch said that NMSA’s action steps for these initiatives can be found at the National Middle School Association Web site. For further information, contact Hatch by e-mail or call (309) 438-5369.