Allyssa Pehrson and Brittany May, Department of Education
The purpose of this study was to compile relevant information for music educators about certification practices of each of the United States and the District of Columbia from resources available fall 2015, and to examine the commonalities and differences among the state policies. Specifically we identified the following for each state: (1) Content areas included under the certification in music teaching. (2) Age-level designations for certification in music teaching. (3) What tests are required for certification in music teaching? (4) Does the state have reciprocity for various certificates? (6) Is there an alternative certification program available for those without education degrees? (7) What fees, if any, are required for certification in the state? (8) Does the state require edTPA?
The research produced from this project provides a resource for both music teachers and music teacher educators about the music education certification requirements for each state. Each state determines its own standards for certifying teachers, and as a consequence, the certification practices among states vary significantly. Music certification is particularly varied, both in the requirements for obtaining certification and also in the actual certificate to be obtained. This is useful for pre-service music teachers because it provides information regarding the certification requirements and type of certification held by each state. While much of the information is available online, it is challenging to locate the specific requirements for music educator certification.
This project is also important for music teacher educators who need to be aware of teacher certification practices to inform their curriculum development (Pisano, 2014). For example, as universal preschool and prekindergarten programs continue to become a part of more public schools, many music educators are required to teach students younger than kindergarten, requiring that the certification process and the curriculum of music teacher educators are in turn catered to such age groups(May, 2015). Many music teachers and music teacher educators are familiar with certification practices for the state in which they reside. However, knowledge of the certification practices of other states is valuable because it provides accurate information to pre-service music teacher, practicing music teachers and music teacher educators regarding these requirements in states outside of their study and practice.
The data collected in this project also provides relevant information regarding certification requirements since previous studies conducted on music teacher certification are outdated or incomplete (Erbes, 1983, 1987; Wolfe, 1954; Henry, 2005). The data also provides insight to guide future studies regarding music teacher certification, as the comparison between this study and previous studies may reveal changes in education trends that reflect the recent movement towards increased teacher accountability.
This study is a replication of a study conducted in 2001 regarding music teacher certification (Henry, 2005). While this study is very informative, there have been changes to music teacher education that necessitate the information regarding certification practices be revisited (Makel & Hegarty, 2014). In 2015, educational practices and certification have changed to address the need for highly-qualified educators (Cochran-Smith, 2002b; Darling- Hammond & Barry, 2006; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2002). New teacher assessment regulations have been put into place for pre-service teachers that impact teacher certification practices (America Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, n.d.; Parkes & Powell, 2015; Sato, 2014).
The initial phase of the study entailed extensive research on the state office of education websites for all fifty states and the District of Columbia to obtain available information regarding music teacher certification. Researchers searched the websites in an attempt to address the research questions. The second phase of the study was to verify and complete existing data. To accomplish this, our research team compared data obtained from state websites then called state offices of education for any clarifying data that was needed. Our final product was a comprehensive chart of what states require elementary music educators to do to be fully certified. We then compared our data with previous studies to observe the trends in certification practices.
As we compared our data with previous studies we found that states have increased testing requirements for new teachers; 49 out of 50 states have required tests with 12 states requiring teacher performance assessments (edTPA) and several more are in the process of implementing teacher performance assessments. This trend towards teacher assessments was predicted in previous studies and we are likely to see more assessments required in the future. Another observation from our study was the trend towards broader certification. Whether this is a wider age level of certification (i.e. k-12 instead of k-6) or content area (i.e. fine arts certification instead of music certification) states are moving to an all inclusive certificate instead of a specific certificate available in the past.
Though our goal of the project was to provide a resource for educators, comparing our results to past studies reveals trends in certification practices. Further topics of investigation could include: how state certification changes continue to affect our programs, how certification affects hiring practices, and whether certification truly leads to desired competency levels of music teachers. It is also important to keep this resource that we complied up to date since certification practices are continually changing.
Overall, this research project has contributed to the music education community by providing information to music educators on state requirements. We presented our findings at the National Association for Music Educators national conference held in Atlanta Georgia 2016 and have submitted our research essay for publication in the Journal of Music Teacher Education. In this way our findings have been made available to the music educator’s community.