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.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: Michigan results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Michigan's policies

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 earn either a group major of 36 semester hours of the subjects above distributed among three major categories—life sciences, physical science and earth/space science—or a comprehensive group major, with a minimum of 50 semester hours distributed among the three categories. Candidates must also pass the MTTC "Integrated Science" test, which combines all scientific areas but does not report individual scores for specific subjects. 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, which combines chemistry and physics but does not report individual scores.

Middle school science teachers in Michigan have the option of earning the elementary integrated science endorsement, which prepares candidates to teach integrated science in grades K-5, as well as biology, chemistry, physics and earth/space science in the middle grades. In addition to either a group major with a minimum of 36 semester hours distributed among the three major categories mentioned above, or a group minor with a minimum of 24 semester hours, candidates must also pass the MTTC "Integrated Science (Elementary)" test, which combines foundations of scientific inquiry, life science, earth/space science and physical science. It appears this test is geared to elementary-level science and is not an adequate assessment of content knowledge for middle school teachers. Regrettably, Michigan also allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license (see Goal 1-E).


Recommendations for Michigan

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and do not require content tests for each area—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. 

Require middle school science teachers to also pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.

State response to our analysis

Michigan noted that NCTQ did not distinguish K-8 self-contained authorization from K-8 departmentalized classrooms, in which middle school teachers with an elementary certificate would be required to hold an additional content endorsement. 

Last word

The issue of K-8 licenses is addressed and factored into the rating in Goal 1-E.  For the purposes of this goal, it is only mentioned to point out that middle school teachers on that license need not have passed the "Integrated Science" test. This is equally problematic whether middle school-level science is taught in a self-contained or departmentalized classroom.   

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).