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Mary  Ginley

Title II-A: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High Quality Teachers and Principals

Subject Matter Competency

  1. What are the options for elementary and middle schoolteachers to demonstrate subject matter competency? (revised on 2/7/11)

    Teachers can choose from one of the current options below to demonstrate subject matter competency:
    Elementary Teacher Options

    OPTION 1: Passing the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) General Curriculum Test; Or

    OPTION 2: Completion of a MA HOUSSE (an approved Individual Professional Development Plan aligned with HOUSSE requirements). HOUSSE plans must be initially approved by the principal or a designee*.

    Middle/Secondary Schoolteacher Options

    OPTION 1: Pass the appropriate MTEL examination;

    OPTION 2: Complete an academic major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an academic major; or

    OPTION 3: National Board certification in the appropriate subject(s); or

    OPTION 4: Completion of a MA HOUSSE (an approved Individual Professional Development Plan aligned with HOUSSE requirements). HOUSSE plans must be initially approved by the principal or a designee*.

    *Note: The HOUSSE option is available only to special education and veteran English As a Second Language (ESL) teachers (teachers with at least one year of teaching experience in ESL) who were Highly Qualified (HQ) in math, science , English or reading /language arts at the time of hire. The HOUSSE option was available to teachers of core academic subjects licensed in or prior to 1999 through June 30, 2007. However, after the July 1, 2007 phase out date, all teachers of core academic subjects who have not yet been deemed HQ by their district cannot use the HOUSSE option to demonstrate subject matter competency.

  2. Once teachers have demonstrated subject matter competency in the core subject(s) they teach, do they have to continue to demonstrate competency in subsequent years?

    Once a teacher has demonstrated subject matter competency through one of the available options, he/she does not need to continue to demonstrate that competency to maintain the HQT designation. However, in the instance that the educator's teaching assignment, and/or the scope of subject matter taught, changes, the individual may need to demonstrate subject matter competency in the new subject area being taught.

  3. Where can I find a practice MTEL exam? (added on 2/05/07)

    The Department has recently developed several online MTEL practice tests. The Department will be adding additional practice tests on an annual basis.

  4. For purposes of choosing the appropriate subject matter competency options, "elementary" refers to teachers who teach which grade levels? (added on 2/05/07)

    For purposes of choosing the appropriate subject matter competency options, elementary teachers are those teaching the elementary school curriculum, which is covered by the curriculum frameworks for preschool through grades 5, or 6.

  5. How would an elementary teacher, who teaches a core academic subject in a team teaching model, demonstrate subject matter competency?

    The elementary teacher in this case would demonstrate subject matter competency in the subjects of the elementary curriculum for which he/she is primarily responsible for teaching.

  6. How would teachers who solely teach a specific subject, such as reading, music or math, at the elementary level, demonstrate subject matter competency? (revised on 1/11/10)

    Elementary teachers who teach a particular subject or subjects of the elementary curriculum need only to demonstrate subject matter competency in those subjects, and not in all of the subjects of the elementary curriculum, through the appropriate subject matter Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL).

  7. Must an educator who teaches social studies, which covers many elements of civics and government, economics, history and geography, demonstrate subject matter competency in all of these sub-areas?

    Yes. Teachers must demonstrate subject matter competency in all core subject areas covered under what was formerly referred to as the "social studies" curriculum, now broken down into, history and social science.

  8. Can elementary teachers demonstrate subject matter competency through National Board certification? (revised on 1/11/10)

    Yes*. Through the statute does not explicitly provide elementary teachers with an option to demonstrate subject matter competency through National Board certification, states may include National Board certification in their High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) option. The Massachusetts HOUSSE (an approved individual professional development plan) provides a means for teachers to include National Board certification in their individual professional development plan, which will satisfy the subject matter competency requirement.
    * Currently, the HOUSSE option is available only to SPED and veteran ESL teachers.

  9. What is meant by coursework equivalent to an academic major? (updated on 5/04/07)

    In the past, districts defined this for their employees. The Department has determined that at least 30 credits are needed in the core content area to equate to holding "a major" in that content area.

  10. What is considered to be advanced certification for purposes of demonstrating subject matter competency at the middle and secondary school levels?

    Advanced certification is currently National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. National certification that teachers may have received in the 1960s and 1970s is not considered advanced certification for purposes of demonstrating subject matter competency.

  11. Does a Master's degree in Education count toward demonstrating subject matter competency?

    A general Master's degree in Education will not satisfy the subject matter competency requirement because the statute specifically states that an educator may demonstrate competence through a Master's degree in the core academic subject(s) in which the teacher teaches.


Last Updated: February 23, 2011
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