Secondary Teacher Preparation: Mississippi

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: Mississippi results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MS-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-6

Analysis of Mississippi's policies

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

Mississippi requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects.  Unfortunately, Mississippi 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).

To add a secondary endorsement to a license, teachers in Mississippi may either submit a passing score on a content test or complete 21 hours of coursework in the subject area. 

Citation

Recommendations for Mississippi

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Mississippi 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.
Mississippi 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. While 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.

State response to our analysis

Mississippi recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that candidates who complete 21 semester hours of coursework in a particular subject area must also pass rigorous tests to pass each course. Therefore, Mississippi recognizes the rigor of college courses and the validity of their content. 

Last word

Mississippi is showing unjustified faith in coursework. While coursework certainly can be both rigorous and relevant, there is no assurance that this will always be the case. For example, a teacher candidate could be a history major who studied nearly all European history or ancient history but knows very little about the American history that he or she is expected to teach in the classroom. A rigorous test ensures that teachers know the material the state expects them to know.

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).