Secondary Teacher Preparation: Illinois

2013 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Secondary Teacher Preparation: Illinois results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IL-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-20

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Illinois requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass an Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, Illinois permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. 

Illinois requires secondary social science teacher candidates to earn a specific subject-area designation (e.g., economics, history, psychology) as part of the broad-field social science endorsement. In addition to completing 32 semester hours of coursework, candidates must also pass the state's subject-specific content test. Regrettably, Illinois allows these candidates to teach all areas of social science at the general level, regardless of the specific designation. However, to teach honors or AP classes, social science teachers must have the designation in that particular area. (For the state's science loophole, see Goal 1-G.)

To add an endorsement to a secondary certificate, teachers in Illinois must also pass a content test. However, teachers receiving a second designation in the sciences or social sciences must either complete 12 semester hours of coursework in the area and pass the required content test or complete a major in the area. 

Citation

Recommendations for Illinois

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 Goal 1-G). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

Require secondary social studies teachers to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.

Although Illinois's policy ensures that social science teachers who teach upper-level courses possess adequate subject-matter knowledge, it falls short when it comes to general-level courses. An economics teacher, having passed only the state's economics content test, could go on to teach political science or anthropology—just not at the honors or AP level. More alarming, perhaps, is that a psychology teacher, having passed only the state's psychology assessment, could teach general-level history or geography. The state should ensure that all students, not only those in advanced classes, have teachers with sufficient and appropriate content knowledge.  

State response to our analysis

Illinois asserted that in addition to completing 32 semester hours of coursework, candidates must also pass the state's specific content test and complete 12 hours in the designation.  

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.