The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements: Maryland offers a secondary license in single subjects for grades 7-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis content test to teach any core secondary subjects except for physical science teachers who only have to pass a secondary pedagogy test.
Endorsements: To add an additional subject or field to a secondary license, teachers in Maryland may either complete coursework requirements (up to 30 credits, depending on the area) or submit a passing score on a content test.
Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Maryland allows both physical science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. Because secondary content testing loopholes are scored in Secondary Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Secondary Content Knowledge goal.
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.
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Maryland's policy regarding candidates seeking a physical science endorsement is especially worrisome given that there is no content test required. Candidates can fulfill the test requirement by passing the Principles of Learning test (7-12), which is a pedagogy test or the Praxis PPAT test which is a performance assessment.
Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Maryland should require passing scores on subject-specific content tests, regardless of other coursework or degree requirements, for teachers who are licensed in core secondary subjects and wish to add another subject area, or endorsement, to their licenses. Although coursework may be generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers know the specific content they will need to teach.
Maryland recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that although it does not require social studies teachers to take separate tests for each content area, the Praxis 5086 covers the following content categories: U.S. History, World History, Government/Civics/Political Science, Economics, Geography, and Behavioral Sciences.
3D: Secondary Content Knowledge
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 a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students. 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, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.
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. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.