Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: Arizona results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Arizona's policies

Arizona offers an endorsement in secondary general science, which is comprised of 12 semester hours of life science courses and 12 semester hours of physical science courses. Because a proficiency assessment is not offered in this subject area, the state only requires 24 semester hours of subject-related courses from an accredited institution; a content test is not required. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas, including biology, chemistry and physics. Further, although Arizona requires secondary teachers to be highly qualified in each specific subject area (e.g., biology, chemistry), this requirement does not ensure that they will have passed a content test.

There is an optional middle-grades general science endorsement for teachers who already have either an elementary or secondary certificate. Teachers holding a valid elementary or secondary teaching certificate who want to attach a middle-grades general science area must pass the AEPA "Middle Grades General Science" test. Arizona also allows middle school science teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license (see Goal 1-E).


Recommendations for Arizona

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications—and do not require content tests for each area—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. 

Require middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.
Although the state requires a specific middle grades science test for its middle-grades science endorsement, this endorsement is optional. Therefore, Arizona does not ensure that all middle school teachers possess adequate knowledge of science.

State response to our analysis

Arizona asserted that the approved area of general science only allows teachers to be appropriately certified to teach general science at the high school level. The state added that teachers must have the appropriate science content as an approved area to be appropriately certified. Arizona currently has AEPA exams for the following science content areas: biology, chemistry, earth science, middle grades general science and physics. The state also noted that it uses the term "approved area," rather than endorsement. 

Last word

NCTQ is unable to find policy that limits teachers with a general science certificate to teach only general science courses. Rather than rely on assumed common understandings regarding which courses a teacher with a general science certificate may or may not teach, Arizona should articulate a specific policy ensuring that all science teachers are required to pass a subject-specific content test for each area they plan to teach. 

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).