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.
Although Michigan requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) content test to teach any core secondary subjects, the state permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both integrated science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines.
Science Endorsements: Michigan offers secondary certification in integrated science, the state's version of general science, which allows candidates to teach integrated science, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science at the secondary level. Candidates must pass the MTTC Integrated Science test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science, but rather can teach any of the topical areas. Michigan also offers certification in physical science, which allows candidates to teach chemistry and physics at the secondary level. They are required to pass the MTTC Physical Science test.
The state also allows noncertificated, nonendorsed teachers to teach STEM subjects for up to one year without demonstrating content knowledge by passing the applicable content test.
Social Studies Endorsements: General social studies candidates must pass the MTTC Social Studies test, which combines all social studies areas but does not report individual scores for specific subjects. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies, but rather can teach any of the topical areas.
Michigan Test for Teacher Certification www.mttc.nesinc.com Specialty Program Standards http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/SBE_Proposed_Social_Studies_Standards_wedits_4.16.2009_275629_7.pdf MCL 380.1233b
Require secondary teachers with umbrella certifications to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
By allowing general social studies and general science certifications—and only requiring general knowledge exams for each—Michigan is not ensuring that secondary teachers of these subjects possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. The state's required general social studies assessment combines all topical areas (e.g., history, geography, economics), and its required general science assessment combines subject areas that include biology, chemistry, and physics. Neither assessment reports separate scores for each area. Therefore, candidates could answer many—perhaps all—chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students.
Require secondary science teachers to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
Michigan should reconsider its testing exemption for candidates with STEM work experience, for content assessments are the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the specific subject matter they will be required to teach. The state's intention to ease the path to licensure for those with STEM work experience is a good idea; however, passing a content test should be the bottom line.
Michigan provided that NCTQ's analysis on Social Studies Endorsements is inaccurate. While MTTC #084 is compensatory in nature, it does report seven individual subscores that comprise the overall score: Historical Perspectives; World History; U.S. History; Geography; Political Science; Economics; and Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Perspectives, and Public Discourse. Although NCTQ does not make a similar claim about the MTTC #094 (Integrated Science), that test reports four individual subscores that underlie the overall score.
Tests that summarize performance by sub area are fundamentally different from a test with separately scored subtests requiring specific passing scores for each section.
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.