The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements: North Carolina offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 9-12. North Carolina requires secondary teachers to pass content tests for initial licensure. However, North Carolina cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers with general science and general social studies licenses.
New legislation in North Carolina extends the amount of time teachers have to pass this content assessment, from two to three years if they attempt to pass the test during their first year of teaching.
Endorsements: To add an endorsement to a clear secondary license, teachers in North Carolina may choose one of the following: pass a content test, complete a state-approved program that leads to licensure, or complete 24 hours in the subject area with a C or better.
Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, North Carolina allows both general science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. Because secondary content testing loopholes are scored in Secondary Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Secondary Content Knowledge goal.
Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates.
As a condition of licensure, North Carolina should require its secondary teacher candidates to pass a content test in each subject area they plan to teach to ensure that they possess adequate subject-matter knowledge and are prepared to teach grade-level content. Allowing teachers to delay passage of the test until the teacher has already been in the classroom for three years does not ensure that every teacher has adequate subject-matter knowledge. To ensure meaningful secondary content tests, the state should set its passing scores to reflect high levels of performance.
Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
North Carolina 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. Although 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.
North Carolina noted that it does not identify these as endorsements, they are identified as an additional licensure area. Additionally, the state noted that it requires subject matter testing for comprehensive science and comprehensive social studies. The tests required to add these additional licensure areas are the Praxis General Science: Content Knowledge (5435) test and the Social Studies: Content Knowledge (5081) test.
3D: Secondary Content Knowledge
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 a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students. 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, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.
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. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.