Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:
Nevada

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: Nevada results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NV-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Science-6

Analysis of Nevada's policies

Nevada offers an endorsement in general science. Candidates must complete either a major (36 credit hours) or a minor (24 credit hours) in general science. Requirements for the major include at least three semester hours in each of the following: biology; chemistry; physics; and earth science, space science, electronics or engineering. Requirements for the minor include at least three semester hours in chemistry, physics and biology. Candidates must pass the Praxis II "General Science, Part 1" test and the "General Science: Content Essays" test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.

Nevada also offers an endorsement in physical science. Requirements for this major include at least six semester hours each in chemistry and physics, and three semester hours each in geology, and earth science, electronics or engineering. Requirements for the minor include three semester hours in each of the following: chemistry; physics; geology; and earth science, space science, electronics or engineering. These candidates must pass the Praxis II "General Science, Part 1" test.

Middle school science teachers in Nevada have the option of a middle grades license. Coursework requirements include 24 semester hours in science and, commendably, candidates must pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test. Regrettably, however, Nevada also allows middle school teachers to teach on a generalist K-8 license (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for Nevada

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and only require a general knowledge science exam—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Nevada's required general assessments combine subject areas (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and do 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

Nevada recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. 

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).