The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Nebraska offers a secondary endorsement in natural science, which is the equivalent of general science found in other states. Candidates must complete 48 semester hours of lab-based coursework in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, earth science and physics), with half focused on one area and the other half distributed among the remaining three. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas. A content test is not required.
Nebraska also offers a secondary endorsement in physical science, requiring candidates to earn 40 semester hours of lab-based courses in the sciences—36 in chemistry, earth science and physics, and four in biology. Candidates are not required to pass a content test.
Middle school science teachers in Nebraska must complete a content area of specialization in natural sciences, which requires a minimum of 18 semester hours. A content test is not required. Also, although Nebraska's elementary license is typically valid for grades 1-6, teacher candidates may teach grades 7 and 8 if they are in self-contained classrooms.
Nebraska Administrative Code 92-24-006.40; .42; .44
Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
Although coursework plays a key role in teachers' acquisition of content knowledge, it should be accompanied by the requirement of an assessment, which is the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the subject area.
Require middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.
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.
As noted in Goal 1-F, Nebraska is putting unjustified faith in the relevance and rigor of coursework. But even if there were a way to ensure that relevance and rigor, Nebraska's composite science endorsements would be problematic. Under the natural sciences endorsement, a teacher completes 24 semester hours in one area, and another 24 hours distributed among the other three areas. A teacher could therefore teach physics, for example, having taken as few as one or two courses.