The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.
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.
Guidelines for MS Educator Licensure http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/ed_licensure/licensure_guidelines.htm
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.
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.
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.
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).