Educator Preparation

Subject Matter Knowledge Guidelines Update

To:Pre-K-Higher Education Stakeholders
From:Office of Educator Effectiveness
Date:May 15, 2018

We are pleased to announce that we have extended the public comment period for feedback on the Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) Guidelines to Friday, 6/29. Our hope in extending this public comment period is to solicit additional and diverse stakeholder feedback.

You will note one change to the SMK Guidelines for Reading Specialist from the previous version that we released for public comment on March 1st. Based on significant feedback (from the March public comment period) on the subject matter knowledge for the Reading Specialist license, we will be reverting to previous SMKs as we reconvene a working group to build out new SMKs in Fall 2018.

As previously noted, these Guidelines reflect a significant shift in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (ESE) approach to outlining content expectations for teachers. The approach emphasizes the importance of aligning the standards for students with expectations for educators. Most notably, for licensure areas in which the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks exist, ESE directly references a corresponding Framework to establish what educators need to demonstrate in content knowledge, rather than provide a separate set of expectations.

The proposed revised Guidelines were informed by the public comment we received during the fall of 2017 on a previous draft, as well as broader efforts to more closely align the training and preparation of our educators with expectations once employed.

The revision of the state's SMK requirements and the development of these Guidelines has been a long-term effort, first initiated in 2015 to align with new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in Mathematics; English Language Arts (ELA)/Literacy; and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) and then further influenced by changes to the Regulations for Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval in June 2017. During this time, ESE has engaged with numerous stakeholders to inform and shape the SMK requirements through various working groups, surveys, and periods of public comment.

Given that changes to the SMK requirements were initiated in order to better align expectations with the recent revisions to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, the majority of changes reflected in these Guidelines affect licenses for those responsible for teaching those standards. That said, we are committed to this overall approach for all license areas. Through public comment, we hope to gather input on the implications of this approach and insights about timelines that will allow for successful implementation. The public comment received during this period will inform a detailed implementation memo, which will be released along with final Guidelines.

There are some license areas with special circumstances worth noting:

  • Moderate Disabilities and Severe Disabilities: These license areas are partially affected by the alignment of content expectations for teachers with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in ELA/Literacy, Mathematics, and STE. There are, however, additional subject matter knowledge requirements specific to the content of this discipline that we did not revise as part of this update. ESE is committed to revisiting the unique needs of these licenses and providing updates as appropriate in the future.
  • English as a Second Language, Business, and Library: Subject matter knowledge requirements specific to these content areas were not revised as a part of this update. ESE is committed to revisiting the unique needs of these licenses and providing updates as appropriate in the future.
  • Arts (Dance, Visual Arts, Theater, and Music), Physical Education and Health/Family and Consumer Services and Foreign Languages: The Massachusetts Curriculum Framework associated with these license areas is currently undergoing or is slated for revision in the next two years. As a result, legacy SMK requirements remain in place until the revised or new Framework is adopted.
  • History and Social Science: This Framework is currently out for public comment through April 2, 2018 and is scheduled to go to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) for vote on whether to formally adopt them. Legacy SMK requirements remain in place until the new Framework is adopted.
  • Administrator and Professional Support Personnel licenses: These licenses are not affected by this update.
  • Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS): This is a new license that was approved by the Board in June 2017 based on the development of the DLCS Framework published in June 2016. Until the new Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL) is developed (in 2020), legacy SMK requirements remain in place for the Competency Review. DLCS programs should be designed based on the DLCS Framework as outlined in the Guidelines.
Download PDF Document
Proposed Revised SMK Guidelines

The proposed revised SMK Guidelines are open for public comment through June 29, 2018. To provide public comment, please visit: Public Comment: Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) Guidelines (May–June 2018).

We look forward to your feedback on the proposed changes and remain committed to collaborating with you in support of effective implementation of the final set of SMK Guidelines.

If you need assistance with the public comment survey or have any questions, please email:

Last Updated: May 15, 2018

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.