2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.
Alaska does not ensure that its secondary teachers are adequately prepared to teach grade-level content.
Regrettably, the state does not require content tests for initial licensure; such tests are only mandated once candidates apply for the professional license, usually after three years. Further, Alaska also allows both general science and general social studies licenses and does not require subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).
Secondary teachers in Alaska may add content areas to the five-year professional certificate in one of three ways: an institutional recommendation, including transcripts showing pertinent coursework; a posted degree, major or minor; or a passing score on a Praxis II content test.
4 AAC 12.305 Addition or Removal of Endorsements http://www.eed.state.ak.us/teachercertification/Endorsements.pdf
Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates.
As a condition of licensure, Alaska should require its secondary teacher candidates to pass a content test in each subject area they plan to teach to ensure that they possess adequate subject-matter knowledge and are prepared to teach grade-level content.
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. While 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.
Research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement. For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, vol. XLII no.4 (2007). See also Harris, D., and Sass, T., "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement." Teacher Quality Research (2007).Evidence can also be found in White, Pressely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois" Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does teacher certification matter? High School Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 22: 129-145. (2000); and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources (1998).