The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements:
The District of Columbia offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12. The District requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis content test to teach any core secondary subjects.
The District of Columbia requires enrollment in, but not completion of, a teacher preparation program in order to obtain an initial license. While this initial license is nonrenewable, it is valid for three years.
Endorsements: To add an endorsement area, the District of Columbia requires teachers to earn a passing score on the applicable Praxis secondary content test. However, the District cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements.
Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, the District of Columbia allows both general science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. Because secondary content testing loopholes are scored in Secondary Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Secondary Content Knowledge goal.
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
The District of Columbia wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Secondary Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.
Require program completion as a condition of initial licensure.
The District of Columbia should require all teacher candidates to complete their respective preparation programs as a condition of initial licensure. Allowing teachers in the classroom as teachers of record prior to program completion risks students' being taught by teachers with inadequate preparation.
The District of Columbia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis.
3D: Secondary Content Knowledge
Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered. A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history. To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history, or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.
Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license. Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework. As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.