No matter whether elementary teachers return to physical or virtual classrooms, this will be a year for the history books. Even kindergartners have plenty of questions about the presidential election, the pandemic and the movement to end systemic racism.
What’s less clear is how prepared elementary school teachers are to put these seismic events into context.
More aspiring elementary teachers failtheir professional entry exams on the first attempt than pass them, a rate unheard of in other professions. The rate of failure for aspiring Black and Latinx teachers is even higher than for aspiring white teachers, making lack of content knowledge preparation yet another obstacle to the diversification the teaching profession so dearly needs.
This problem has been created in large part by institutions’ failing to acknowledge that elementary teachers need to acquire specialized content knowledge — not just professional coursework — to be effective.
Many working on an elementary education degree are given free rein to take whatever general education course interests them, and one called The Sexual Revolution of the 1960sno doubt proves more compelling to the average college student than a course entitled From the American Revolution to the Civil War.
This op-ed about teacher quality was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletters.
Kate Walsh has served as the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality since 2003, leading work to ensure that every child has equal access to effective teachers.
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