Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that secondary science and social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
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 offers a physical science certificate, and candidates must only pass a physical science test.
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 Pearson content test; the general social studies test is no longer available.
Testing Requirements http://www.in.nesinc.com/ 511 IAC 15-6-23 and 25
Require secondary teachers with umbrella certifications to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
By allowing physical science certifications—and only requiring a general physical science test—Indiana is not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. The physical science test does not report separate scores for each included subject, although candidates are licensed to teach chemistry or physics in addition to physical science courses.
Indiana was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also provided that this section implies that "physical science" is similar to or the same as "general science." However, Indiana physical science teacher candidates are required to meet standards that include chemistry and physics. Atomic structures, nuclear processes, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, motion and forces, etc., are several examples of required topics that far exceed "general science" expectations. Please see "Science- Physical Science" standards.
3E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies
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.