Secondary Teacher Preparation: Missouri

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation: Missouri results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MO-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-6

Analysis of Missouri's policies

Missouri does not ensure that all secondary teachers are adequately prepared to teach grade-level content. 

Missouri requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects.  Unfortunately, Missouri permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).

Further, secondary teachers in Missouri may add an endorsement to their licenses by either submitting a passing score on a content test, or "successfully complet[ing] the applicable certification requirements as set forth in the Compendium of Missouri Certification Requirements."

Citation

Recommendations for Missouri

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Missouri wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Missouri 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.

State response to our analysis

Missouri recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also pointed out that new standards for educator preparation are being developed, and that NCTQ's recommendations will be considered when discussing the revision of certification requirements.

How we graded

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 only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. 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.  

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. Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject.  

Research rationale

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, Pressely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois" Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does teacher certification matter? High School Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 22: 129-145. (2000); and 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).