Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Massachusetts does not offer certification in general science for secondary teachers. Teachers must be certified in a specific discipline within the subject area of science. 

Middle school science teachers in Massachusetts may earn certification in middle grades general science. Candidates seeking this certification must pass the MTEL "General Science" exam. However, they may also complete a mathematics/science program of study consisting of 36 semester hours. These candidates are required to pass the MTEL "Middle School Mathematics/Science" test, in which science comprises 50 percent of the exam.


Recommendations for Massachusetts

Require middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.
Massachusetts's math/science test that combines these two subject areas—without reporting separate scores for each discipline—does not ensure that middle school science teachers possess adequate knowledge of science, as it may be possible to answer many science questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

For an examination of how science teacher preparation positively impacts student achievement, see Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2000). Does teacher certification matter? High school certification status and student achievement, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22, 129-145; Monk, D. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement, Economics of Education Review, 12(2):125-145; Rothman, A., (1969). Teacher characteristics and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 6(4), 340-348.  

See also, NCTQ "The All-Purpose Science Teacher: An Analysis of Loopholes in State Requirements for High School Science Teachers."(2010). 

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, 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, Presely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois," Illinois Education Research Council (2008); 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).