The state should ensure that secondary science and social studies teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge of all subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Science Endorsement Requirements: Indiana does not allow general science certification for secondary teachers. Teachers must be certified in a specific discipline within the subject area of science. However, the state does offer a physical science certificate, and candidates must only pass a physical science test. The state also stipulates that teachers with a physical science area of concentration may only teach physical science courses.
Social Studies Endorsement Requirements: Indiana articulates that secondary social studies teachers must qualify for a concentration in at least one of the following content areas: economics, geographical perspectives, government and citizenship, historical perspectives, psychology or sociology. The state also stipulates that teachers may only teach in the social studies areas of concentration. Further, candidates must pass the subject-specific content test; the general social studies test is no longer available.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Due to Indiana's strong policies in this area, no recommendations are provided.
Indiana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
3E: Secondary Licensure Requirements
Specialized science teachers are not interchangeable. Based on their high school science licensure requirements, many states seem to presume that it is all the same to teach anatomy, electrical currents, and Newtonian physics. Most states allow teachers to obtain general science or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines, and, in most cases, these teachers need only pass a general knowledge science exam that does not ensure subject-specific content knowledge. This means that a teacher with a background in biology could be fully certified to teach advanced physics having passed only a general science test—and perhaps answering most of the physics questions incorrectly.
There is no doubt that districts appreciate the flexibility that these broad field licenses offer, especially given the very real shortage of teachers of many science disciplines. But the all-purpose science teacher not only masks but perpetuates the STEM crisis—and does so at the expense of students. States need to either make sure that general science teachers are indeed prepared to teach any of the subjects covered under that license or allow only single-subject science certifications. In either case, states need to consider strategies to improve the pipeline of science teachers, including the use of technology, distance learning and alternate routes into STEM fields.
Similarly, 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 may only be 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.