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 Missouri offers general science certification for secondary teachers, these candidates are only allowed to teach general science courses. Candidates are required to pass the newly adopted Missouri Educator Gateway Assessments (MEGA) General Science test.
Science Endorsements: Missouri offers a unified science certification, and the state notably requires unified science candidates to pass a content test in the unified science area, as well as in each supporting academic content area. For example, a candidate for Unified Science-Biology would have to pass a biology content test as well as earn passing scores on chemistry, earth science and physics subtests.
Social Studies Endorsements: Although Missouri offers certification in general social studies, candidates must now pass the newly adopted MEGA Social Sciences Multi-Content test, which includes six independent subtests in U.S. history, world history, government, geography, economics, and behavioral science.
Missouri Certification and Test Requirements http://www.mo.nesinc.com/Content/Docs/MEGA_Requirements.pdf Code of State Regulations, 5 CSR 20-400.280; .540(12)
Explicitly articulate that general science teachers may only teach general science courses.
Although Missouri requires its Core Data Process to verify that teachers holding the general science certificate are only teaching general science courses, the state is encouraged to clarify its policy so that districts are aware of this license restriction. This would ensure that general science placements are as the state intends, rather than the current system of verification after the fact.
Missouri recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.