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.
Secondary teachers in California are generally licensed under the Single Subject Teaching Credential, which is valid in grades K-12.
Science Endorsement Requirements: Although California offers a general science license, those holding this license are not permitted to teach any of the topical areas beyond grade 8. Teachers with this license may only teach general science courses in grades 9 through 12. However, the state allows candidates to verify subject-matter competence in one of two ways: by passing a content test or by completing a commission-approved subject-matter program.
Social Studies Endorsement Requirements: Further, California only offers secondary teachers a general social science certification. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the topical areas. The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) Social Science test contains three subtests. Subtest 1 covers world history and world geography, subtest 2 covers U.S. history and U.S. geography and subtest 3 covers economics and California History. However, the state allows candidates to verify subject-matter competence in one of two ways: by passing a content test or by completing a commission-approved subject-matter program.
Secondary (Single Subject) Teaching Credentials www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/CREDS/secondary-teaching.html Coded Correspondence 14-09 https://www.ctc.ca.gov/docs/default-source/commission/coded/2014/1409.pdf?sfvrsn=d39ad965_0 CSET Social Science Test Framework http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/CA_CSET114_PrepMaterials.html Single Subject Teaching Credential http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl560c.pdf California Education Code 44257(a), 44258.1
Require secondary teachers with umbrella certifications to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
California has wisely divided social studies content into three separately scored subtests. The state should require content assessments, as a condition of initial licensure, for that is the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the subject area.
California declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
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.