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: Iowa offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 5-12. All new secondary school teachers in Iowa have the option of either passing a single-subject Praxis content test and pedagogy test, or passing the edTPA test to attain licensure. The edTPA is not a content test.
Endorsements: Regrettably, Iowa allows teachers to add secondary certification areas using one of the following methods:
Test Requirements www.ets.org/praxis Iowa Administrative Code 282-13.28 (17) and (18) and 13.29 Program Completion Testing Overview letter July 2019 https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/Program%20Completion%20Testing%20Overview%20letter%20July%202019.pdf Adding an Endorsement to a License https://www.boee.iowa.gov/endorsements/add-endorsement-license
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Iowa should require subject-matter testing for all secondary school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure. The option of the edTPA means that secondary teachers need not pass a content test at all in order to be certified. While performance assessments such as the edTPA provide an opportunity for teacher candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in sample lessons, the assessments are not designed to measure the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills needed in a single area.
Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Iowa 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. Although 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.
Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of 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.