Secondary Teacher Preparation: Illinois

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation: Illinois results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Illinois requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a 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 (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).

To add an endorsement to a secondary certificate, teachers in Illinois must also pass a content test. However, the state outlines specific guidelines for science and social studies endorsements. Secondary teachers who are adding an endorsement (e.g., broad-field social science) with a subject-specific designation (e.g., economics, history, psychology) in either of these fields who does not already hold that endorsement with one of its other available designations must pass a content test for the subject area to be added. Teachers may receive subsequent designations in the same general field by either passing a content test and completing 12 hours of coursework or completing a content-area major. Therefore, as stated above, Illinois cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for those secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements.


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 Goals 1-G and 1-H). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

State response to our analysis

Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that this topic will be reviewed when it begins work on secondary programs. 

Research rationale

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, Pressely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois" Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does teacher certification matter? High School Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 22: 129-145. (2000); 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 (1998).