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: Illinois offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 9-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass an Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) content test to teach any core secondary subjects.
Endorsements: To add an endorsement to a secondary certificate, teachers in Illinois must also pass a content test. However, Illinois cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements.
Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Illinois allows holders of subjects within the science or social studies umbrella to teach any course under those umbrellas. 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.
Illinois Licensure Testing System www.il.nesinc.com 23 Illinois Administrative Code 25.100 and Section 25 Appendix E 105 ILCS 5/21B-20
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Illinois 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).
Illinois was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. With regard to secondary licensure deficiencies, the state noted that in order to to teach honors or Advanced Placement courses, educators must earn the applicable subject-specific endorsement under the science or social science umbrella.
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.