Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements: Alaska offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 8-12. Passage of Praxis subject-matter tests are now required for initial licensure.
Endorsements: Secondary teachers in Alaska may add content areas to the five-year professional certificate in one of four ways:
Test Requirement www.ets.org/praxis 4 AAC 12.305;.396; .407 Addition or Removal of Endorsements https://education.alaska.gov/teachercertification/endorsements
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Alaska wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Secondary Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.
Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Alaska should require passing scores on subject-specific content tests, regardless of other coursework or degree requirements, for teachers who are licensed in core secondary subjects and wish to add another subject area, or endorsement, to their licenses. Although coursework may be generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers know the specific content they will need to teach.
Alaska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
3D: Secondary Content Knowledge
Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered. A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history. To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history, or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.
Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license. Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework. As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.