Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: New

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of New York's policies

New York does not offer certification in general science for secondary teachers. Teachers must be certified in a specific discipline within the subject area of science. 

Middle school science teachers in New York have the option of a middle grades specialist certificate, which requires a major in biology, chemistry, earth science or physics. Candidates must pass an NYSTCE content test in one of these specific areas. Those teaching grades 7 and 8 in a K-8 setting, however, are required to earn a generalist in middle childhood education certificate and to pass the state's multi-subject exam. 


Recommendations for New York

Require all middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.
Although New York's specialist option ensures requisite subject matter knowledge, the state's generalist option falls short. The multi-subject exam combines English, math, science, social studies, fine arts, health and fitness, and family and consumer science and career development and does not report separate scores for each subject area.

State response to our analysis

New York recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the middle school generalist certification is only accepted for K-8 nondepartmentalized schools. In schools that are departmentalized for grades 7 and 8, the appropriate science certification is required for science instruction. Further, once certified in one of the four subject areas—biology, chemistry, earth science or physics—a general science extension can be issued. 

Last word

All middle school students need teachers that are well prepared to teach middle school-level science, whether this occurs in a self-contained or departmentalized classroom.  

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).