Teacher Preferences for Middle Grades: Insights into Attracting Teacher Candidates

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Stony Brook University]On: 27 October 2014, At: 05:53Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies,Issues and IdeasPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vtch20

    Teacher Preferences for Middle Grades: Insights intoAttracting Teacher CandidatesRich A. Radcliffe a & Thomas F. Mandeville aa Texas State UniversitySan MarcosPublished online: 07 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Rich A. Radcliffe & Thomas F. Mandeville (2007) Teacher Preferences for Middle Grades: Insights into AttractingTeacher Candidates, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 80:6, 261-266

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/TCHS.80.6.261-266


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  • e need more middle grades teacher candi-dates in our teacher preparation program,

    is a phrase that has troubled me for a decade during my tenure at three universities located in western, cen-tral, and southern states. Our peers, also middle-level teacher educators, share this concern. When addressing large groups of freshmen bound for teaching careers, I encounter hordes already committed to the elementary grades and large contingents of content-focused candi-dates seeking high school positions. In my region, mid-dle school principals desperately seek candidates with specialized middle grades preparation and my graduat-ing preservice middle grades teachers often enjoy mul-tiple job offers.

    A review of the literature concerning teacher short-ages, particularly middle school teachers, yields dis-couraging information. Howard (2003) cites the U.S.

    Department of Education estimate that approximately 2.2 million teachers will need to be replaced over the next decade (U.S. Department of Education 1999). McAuliffe (2003) reports that the supply of teachers is more critical today than in the previous twenty-four years. Looking to the future, Gursky (2001) predicts a demographic train wreck ahead and Bracey (2002) sug-gests that we are in for a double whammy because of retirement and high preretirement turnover. Teacher shortages are reported in the southern and western states while surpluses exist in the Northeast and North-west.

    Although the supply and demand for teachers varies regionally, shortages exist in some specialization areas (Howard 2003), including middle school. Johnston (n.d.), reporting that a teacher shortage hits the middle grades with a special vengeance, suggests that many mid-dle school teachers have originally prepared for another level and leap at the chance to move out of the middle grades. Jackson and Davis (2000) describe the need for specialized middle grades preparation and cite studies in which researchers found that fewer than 25 percent of middle grades teachers received specialized preparation. Useem, Barends, and Lindermayer (1999) found that in many states, middle grades teacher licensure or endorse-ment is voluntary or is available with little or no special-ized professional preparation. In a report commissioned by The Southern Regional Education Board Cooney (2000) describes the acute need to improve the quality of teachers in the middle grades. McEwin, Dickinson, and Smith (2002) state that middle-level principals found it difficult, if not impossible, to find teachers with specialized knowledge in the middle grades.

    Teacher Preferences for Middle Grades

    Insights into Attracting Teacher Candidates


    Rich A. Radcliffe, PhD, is an associate professor at Texas State UniversitySan Marcos. Thomas F. Mandeville, PhD, has most recently been on the faculty at Texas State Univer-

    sitySan Marcos and Walden University as an associate professor. Copyright 2007 Heldref Publications


    Abstract: Shortages of middle-level teacher candidates may cause teacher educators to recruit candidates by focusing on what attracts and discourages candidates about teach-ing at the middle level. The authors used a survey approach (n = 110) to investigate why preservice middle school and high school teachers and in-service middle school teachers chose the middle grades. The results included ten common reasons that the respondents favored the middle grades and ten major concerns about this level. Three attractions to the middle gradesstudent age, content level, and employment marketand common beliefs about positive teacherstudent relationships and students maturity may guide teacher educa-tors in their efforts to increase middle grades program enroll-ment.

    Keywords: attractions, concerns, middle school, recruiting teacher candidates





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  • These recommendations for specialized middle grades preparation occur amidst much discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and controversy over what constitutes a highly qualified teacher. One viewpoint of teacher competence maintains the sin-gular importance of content knowledge. As explained by Walsh (2004), federal lawmakers created NCLB to respond in part to strong research evidence that teach-ers subject matter knowledge contributed to greater student learning. Porter-Magee (2004) describes the NCLB legislation as a shift away from certification that includes student teaching and pedagogy courses, man-dating that teachers demonstrate content knowledge (27). According to Erb (2004), NCLB does not require a teacher candidate to provide more than preliminary evidence of teaching competence to receive the appel-lation highly qualified (4). Laczko-Kerr and Berliner (2002) stress the importance of pedagogy, not just con-tent. There is a growing consensus that middle-level teachers should have specialized preparation based on McEwin, Dickinson, and Smith (2003). A study by McEwin, Dickinson, and Hamilton (2000) found that National Board Certified Early Adolescence/Generalist teachers believe that specialized preparation of middle-level teachers is important and desirable. The call for specialized preparation predates the NCLB legislation (McEwin 1996; McEwin and Dickinson 1997; McEwin et al. 1997). In summary, many educators advocate for pedagogy as well as content preparation and continue to stress the importance of middle grades specialized programs.

    Concern about shortages of teachers with specialized middle grades preparation may lead teacher educators to question how to recruit more candidates. Thornton (2004) calls for a thorough examination of how to attract middle grades teachers. According to Bracey (2002), we need to recruit more teachers and find better ways to retain them. Wattington et al. (2004) recommend research studies to further inform the field to assist with teacher recruitment. While discussing the continuing need to advocate for specialized prepara-tion of middle school teachers, Gaskill (2002) suggests that our job may become more difficult with the pro-jected teacher shortage.

    A need clearly exists to recruit more teacher candi-dates into specialized middle-level teacher preparation programs. An understanding of why teachers choose the middle grades may help teacher educators bet-ter recruit middle-level teacher candidates. Clement (2004) points out the importance of knowing the reasons that teachers give for entering the profession. The literature identifies many reasons people choose a teaching career, including positive teacherstudent relationships (Shann 1998), intrinsic rewards such as seeing a child develop (Latham 1998), the ability to shape the future (Nieto 2003), and needs for autonomy

    and creativity (Williams 2003). A review of current literature is less informative concerning why teachers specifically choose to teach the middle grades.

    In this study, we investigate what preservice middle school and high school teachers and in-service middle school teachers find attractive or discouraging about teaching in todays middle grades. An understanding of this may guide us, and other middle-level educators, in our efforts to attract teacher candidates to a middle grades preparation program.