Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that secondary science and social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Science Endorsement Requirements: Arizona permits a significant loophole by allowing a test exemption for the general science certification. Further, it is not clear whether general science teachers are limited to teaching general science, integrated science and thinking sciences.
Candidates applying for a secondary certificate are exempted from subject-matter testing if they have work experience in science, technology, engineering or math and a postsecondary degree or 24 credit hours of relevant coursework in the subject they intend to teach. Candidates opting to verify subject-matter knowledge with a content test must pass the National Evaluation Series (NES) General Science test.
Social Studies Endorsement Requirements: Candidates opting to verify subject-matter knowledge with a content test must pass the NES Social Science test. This test covers history, government, economics, geography and culture. It is not clear whether teachers who have passed this test are allowed to teach any subject under the social studies umbrella, or whether they are limited to teaching general social studies courses.
New legislation permits a test exemption for all secondary licenses if the candidate has a bachelor's degree or higher in a relevant content area.
Arizona Administrative Code R7-2-607, -615 Arizona Revised Statute 15-203(14)g SB 1042 (2017) Certificate Requirements http://www.azed.gov/educator-certification/certificate-requirement/ Tests http://www.aepa.nesinc.com/PageView.aspx?f=GEN_Tests.html
Require secondary science teachers to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
Arizona should reconsider its testing exemption for candidates with STEM work experience, for content assessments are the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the specific subject matter they will be required to teach. The state's intention to ease the path to licensure for those with STEM work experience is a good idea; however, passing a content test should be the bottom line, not coursework requirements.
Arizona recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
3E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies
Specialized science teachers are not interchangeable. Based on their high school science licensure requirements, many states seem to presume that it is all the same to teach anatomy, electrical currents, and Newtonian physics. Most states allow teachers to obtain general science or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines, and, in most cases, these teachers need only pass a general knowledge science exam that does not ensure subject-specific content knowledge. This means that a teacher with a background in biology could be fully certified to teach advanced physics having passed only a general science test—and perhaps answering most of the physics questions incorrectly.
There is no doubt that districts appreciate the flexibility that these broad field licenses offer, especially given the very real shortage of teachers of many science disciplines. But the all-purpose science teacher not only masks but perpetuates the STEM crisis—and does so at the expense of students. States need to either make sure that general science teachers are indeed prepared to teach any of the subjects covered under that license or allow only single-subject science certifications. In either case, states need to consider strategies to improve the pipeline of science teachers, including the use of technology, distance learning and alternate routes into STEM fields.
Similarly, most states offer a general social studies license at the secondary level. For this certification, teachers can have a background in a wide variety of fields, ranging from history and political science to anthropology or psychology and may only be required to pass a general social studies test. Under such a license a teacher who majored in psychology could be licensed to teach secondary history having passed only a general knowledge test and answering most—and perhaps all—history questions incorrectly.