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: Idaho results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Idaho's policies

Idaho offers secondary science teachers a Natural Science endorsement, which appears to be the equivalent of the general science endorsement found in other states. Although the state requires an initial endorsement in biological science, physical science, physics, chemistry, earth science, geology, or agriculture science and technology, candidates then only need to earn an additional 24 semester credit hours in the remaining areas of science. They must also pass the Praxis II "General Science" test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.

Idaho also offers a Physical Science endorsement, which requires 20 semester credit hours in the area of physical science to include a minimum of eight credit hours in both chemistry and physics. Candidates must pass the Praxis II "Physical Science" test, which combines both chemistry and physics. 

Middle school science teachers in Idaho may teach on a generalist K-8 license. A "Ninth Grade Endorsement" is available for elementary teachers who complete the requirements for a subject-area endorsement; this allows teachers to teach that subject through grade 9. Elementary teachers seeking this endorsement are required to pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test.


Recommendations for Idaho

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and only require a general knowledge science exam—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Idaho's required general assessment combines subject areas (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, if a teacher is initially endorsed in earth science, she could answer many—perhaps all—chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students.

Require middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.

State response to our analysis

Idaho recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

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).