Secondary Teacher Preparation: Hawaii

2013 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Secondary Teacher Preparation: Hawaii results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/HI-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-20

Analysis of Hawaii's policies

Hawaii has recently approved five options for verifying content knowledge for licensure: 1) a passing score on a content test; 2) National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification in the content field; 3) a content major consisting of at least 30 semester hours in the content field; 4) at least 30 semester hours in the content field, at least 15 of which must be upper division level; or 5) a master's, specialist or doctoral degree in the license field. Regrettably, not all of these options ensure requisite content knowledge for secondary teacher candidates. 

Further, Hawaii also allows both general science and general social studies licenses and does not require subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. 

Although the state has recently added single-subject social studies fields (i.e., economics, geography, government, political science, history, psychology and sociology), it still offers the general field of social studies. Candidates opting to verify subject-matter knowledge with a content test must only pass the Praxis II Social Studies: Content Knowledge test and are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the specified areas. (For the state's science loophole, see Goal 1-G.)

To add a field to a secondary license, teachers in Hawaii may choose one of the following: complete a state-approved teacher education program, submit proof of teaching experience and 30 hours of coursework, or submit proof of teaching experience and a passing score on a Praxis II content test.

Citation

Recommendations for Hawaii

Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates. 

As a condition of licensure, Hawaii should require its secondary teacher candidates to pass a content test in each subject area they plan to teach to ensure that they possess adequate subject-matter knowledge and are prepared to teach grade-level content. 

Require secondary social studies teachers to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
By allowing a general social studies certification—and only requiring a general knowledge social studies exam—Hawaii is not ensuring that its secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. The state's required assessment combines all subject areas (e.g., history, geography, economics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area. 

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Hawaii should require passing scores on subject-specific content tests, regardless of other coursework or degree requirements, for teachers who are licensed in core secondary subjects and wish to add another subject area, or endorsement, to their licenses. While coursework may be generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers know the specific content they will need to teach.

State response to our analysis

Hawaii asserted that the edTPA is required to be implemented in all state preparation programs by July 1, 2016. Hawaii also noted that it has added subject-specific licenses in addition to the broad-field science and social studies licenses. If the Department of Education decides to require these licenses in lieu of the general license, they are already available to teachers. 

How we graded

Research rationale

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 only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. 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. 

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.  Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject. 

Is a social studies teacher prepared to teach history?

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 are usually only 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.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research

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, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and 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, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

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, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and 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, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.