Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.
Nebraska does not require secondary teachers to pass content tests.
Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates.
As a condition of licensure, Nebraska 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. While a degree—even an advanced degree—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.
Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.
Nebraska 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.
Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it does not agree with NCTQ's assertion that Nebraska does not ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content. NCTQ indicators are focused on testing and the fact that Nebraska does not require tests for licensure. Because the NCTQ standard is to require content tests, rather than focus on whether the preparation program ensures that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach the content, NCTQ's rating is correct by its standard.
Nebraska 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).