Principals of middle-grade schools in port of entry communities along the Texas-Mexico border were surveyed to learn about the education and preparational experiences these principals believed novice teachers should have before coming to teach in their schools. Demographic data about themselves, teachers, students and middle-grade schools, along with suggestions for improving Texas teacher education programs were also obtained.
Mexican Americans were the dominant ethnic group and culture in these schools for principals, teachers and students. Principals were mostly male, well educated, and certified for the position they held. Student populations ranged from 437--1,603 in rural, urban and suburban settings. Eighty-two percent of the student population participated in the Federal Free Lunch Program. Faculty populations in these schools ranged from 35--145. Student/Teacher ratios range from 8.8/1--18/1. Half the rural schools in this study have difficulty attracting all the properly certified teachers needed for their classrooms. Principals slightly preferred secondary certified over elementary certified teachers for middle-grade teaching positions.
Combined responses from principals revealed that knowledge centered around middle school themes was at least as important for pre-service teachers as their knowledge of pedagogy. The majority of responding principals ranked the following coursework and experiences as "essential" or "very important" for pre-service teachers: student teaching in the middle-grades, appropriate teaching methods for pre- and young adolescents, pre-student teaching field experiences in the middle-grades, developmental characteristics and needs of pre- and young adolescents, and curriculum and organization in middle-grades. Other coursework and experiences ranked by the majority of principals as "important" are: dealing with the culture of poverty, dealing with the Latino culture, and ESL certification.
The compiled responses from data revealed responding principals believe Texas teacher education programs are adequately preparing pre-service teachers. However, more emphasis should be placed on: middle-grade teaching skills and concepts, classroom management and discipline, curriculum and instruction, and communication with parents, staff, and community. Pre-service teachers need more information about working with students and parents living in poverty. Responding principals would also like pre-service teachers to have greater exposure to middle-grade classrooms through additional observation experiences and student teaching.