Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:
North Dakota

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.

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

Analysis of North Dakota's policies

North Dakota offers a composite science endorsement for secondary teachers. Candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "General Science" test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.

Middle school science teachers in North Dakota must earn a middle level major in science, which includes 24 semester hours of content coursework. Commendably, candidates must pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test. Regrettably, however, North Dakota also allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K/1-8 license if the school is classified as an elementary school (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for North Dakota

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications—and only require a general knowledge science exam—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. North Dakota's required general assessment combines subject areas (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, candidates could answer many—perhaps all—chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students.

State response to our analysis

North Dakota disagreed with this analysis but did not offer any further explanation. 

Research rationale

For an examination of how science teacher preparation positively impacts student achievement, see Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2000). Does teacher certification matter? High school certification status and student achievement, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22, 129-145; Monk, D. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement, Economics of Education Review, 12(2):125-145; Rothman, A., (1969). Teacher characteristics and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 6(4), 340-348.  

See also, NCTQ "The All-Purpose Science Teacher: An Analysis of Loopholes in State Requirements for High School Science Teachers."(2010). 

In addition, 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, Presely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois," Illinois Education Research Council (2008); 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).