The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Although Arkansas does not offer a general science certification for secondary science teachers, it does have a combined physical/earth science licensure area. The state does not mandate specific major/minor requirements, but rather it articulates a set of competencies to address requisite knowledge in a particular area. Candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "Earth and Space Sciences" test and the "Physical Science" test, which combines both chemistry and physics.
Middle school science teachers are required to select a major in mathematics/science and then must earn at least 18 credits in each of the two disciplines in their competency area. As of November 1, 2011, all new middle school teacher candidates will be required to take the Praxis II Middle School: Multiple Subjects assessment, which will report a cut score for each of the four content areas. Candidates will be allowed to re-take any section that they do not pass; however, all sections must be passed prior to licensure.
Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and require only a comprehensive content test—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Arkansas's required assessments combine both physics and chemistry and do not report separate scores for each subject. Therefore, a candidate could, for example, answer many physics questions incorrectly on the combination content test, yet still be licensed to teach physics to high school students.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis. The state wondered why its life/earth and space science certification was not included in the analysis, and it added that a secondary science teacher must pass either the life science (biology) or the physical science (chemistry and physics) content test.
The focus of this goal is on combination licensure areas that allow teachers to teach a combination of biology, chemistry and/or physics under a single certificate. The analysis discusses Arkansas's physical/earth science certificate because it allows teachers to teach both chemistry and physics but only requires candidates to pass the Praxis II physical science assessment, which combines physics and chemistry without reporting cut scores for each subject area.
Although the state also offers certification in life/earth science, it was not included in the analysis because it requires that candidates pass the Praxis II biology test, in addition to an earth science assessment. Therefore, the testing requirement ensures that a secondary biology teacher must pass a biology content test.