Secondary Content Knowledge: North Dakota

Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Secondary Content Knowledge: North Dakota results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/ND-Secondary-Content-Knowledge-91

Analysis of North Dakota's policies

Content Test Requirements: North Dakota offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 5-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis content test to teach any core secondary subjects.  However, North Dakota cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers with general science and general social studies licenses.

Endorsements:
Teachers have the following options to add endorsements to a secondary license:

  • Complete the minimum requirements for a degree in secondary education, including student teaching in grades 5-12, and a North Dakota-recognized content area major.
  • An individual with a content area major may complete the secondary endorsement with a minimum of 22 semester hours of secondary education professional courses for the endorsement in addition to the major or minor field.
  • State-approved test endorsement - secondary. Re-education of a licensed teacher for secondary school teaching may also be accomplished by holding a North Dakota regular educator's professional license and the successful completion of the pedagogical test grades 7-12, and secondary or specialty content test meeting or exceeding the minimum scores determined by the education standards and practices board in the content area to be taught. Re-education for the secondary endorsement must be completed prior to assignment to teach in the secondary content area. An official transcript and test scores documenting the major must be attached to the endorsement form.
Additionally, teachers with bachelor's degrees in elementary education can add an endorsement at the secondary level using one of the following methods: 
  •  With a transcripted-recognized content minor, may complete the coursework necessary for the major in the core academic areas, secondary methods coursework, and a minimum of five weeks of student teaching in grades 5-12 or the interim licensure clinical practice option under section 67.1-02-04-07.
  • With a transcripted-recognized core content minor, may complete the Praxis test and a minimum of five weeks of student teaching in grades 5-12 or the interim licensure clinical practice under section 67.1-02-04-07.

Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, North Dakota 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. 

Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for North Dakota

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
North Dakota wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Secondary Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
North Dakota 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.

State response to our analysis

North Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

3D: Secondary Content Knowledge

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new secondary teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every subject they are licensed to teach.
  • Additional Endorsements: The state should require that all secondary teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test when adding subject-area endorsements to an existing license.
Content Tests
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires all new secondary teachers to pass a separately scored licensing test in every subject they are licensed to teach. 
Additional Endorsements
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires all secondary teachers to pass a separately scored content test to add subject-area endorsements to an existing license.

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.


[1] Monk, D. (1994). Subject-area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Research, 32(3), 505-523.; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2010). The all-purpose science teacher: An analysis of loopholes in state requirements for high school science teachers. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/NCTQ_All_Purpose_Science_Teacher.pdf; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2014). Infographic on secondary certification. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_-_Standard_7,8_Groundwork_-_Infographic_on_Secondary_Certification; For consideration for elementary teachers' need to master content knowledge, see: Goldhaber, D. (2007). Everyone's doing it, but what does teacher testing tell us about teacher effectiveness? Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 765-794.; See also: Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7), 798-812. Retrieved from
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509656.pdf; For research on this effect specific to reading achievement: Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of elementary teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.