Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:
Alaska

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: Alaska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AK-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Science-6

Analysis of Alaska's policies

Secondary science teachers in Alaska have the option of an endorsement in general science. 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. At that point, the state requires Praxis II "General Science" content tests. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.

Middle school science teachers in Alaska are not required to obtain a specific middle school endorsement, and the state does not require content tests for initial licensure. Alaska also allows middle school science teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for Alaska

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach, as a condition of initial licensure.
States that allow general science certifications—and require only a general content test after up to three years in the classroom—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Alaska's required assessment combines all subject areas (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, candidates could answer many—perhaps all—chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students.

Require middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science, as a condition of initial licensure.
A general subject-matter test that combines literature/language arts, mathematics, history/social studies and science—without reporting separate scores for each subject area—does not ensure that middle school science teachers possess adequate knowledge of science, as it may be possible to answer many—perhaps all—science questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

State response to our analysis

Alaska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

For an examination of how science teacher preparation positively impacts student achievement, see Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2000). Does teacher certification matter? High school certification status and student achievement, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22, 129-145; Monk, D. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement, Economics of Education Review, 12(2):125-145; Rothman, A., (1969). Teacher characteristics and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 6(4), 340-348.  

See also, NCTQ "The All-Purpose Science Teacher: An Analysis of Loopholes in State Requirements for High School Science Teachers."(2010). 

In addition, 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, Presely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois," Illinois Education Research Council (2008); 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).