The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Although Oklahoma commendably does not offer a secondary certification in general science, it does offer a physical science certification area. The state requires a subject-area major that includes 18 hours in each assigned area. Candidates are required to pass the OSAT "Physical Science" test.
Middle school science teachers in Oklahoma may opt for certification in middle level science. Candidates must earn a major in a content-related area and, commendably, must also pass the OSAT "Middle Level Science" test. Regrettably, however, Oklahoma allows middle school science teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license (see Goal 1-E).
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Academic Affairs Procedure Handbook 3.21.4 Certification Examinations for Oklahoma Educators www.ceoe.nesinc.com
Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and require only a comprehensive content test—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Oklahoma's assessment combines both physics and chemistry and does not report separate scores for each subject. Therefore, a candidate could, for example, answer many physics questions incorrectly on the combination content test, yet still be licensed to teach physics to high school students.
Oklahoma asserted that chemistry, physics and physical science have separate subject-area certification exams, and candidates cannot teach chemistry or physics without the successful completion of the individual exam. The state also pointed out that successful completion of the physical science exam certifies candidates to teach physical science, general science and concepts of general science essentials.
Oklahoma's policies to ensure that secondary science teachers know the subject-matter they teach are better than most states. However, the physical science certification falls short. Physical science teachers are expected to teach both chemistry and physics and should be required to demonstrate content knowledge in each subject area. Oklahoma's physical science test combines chemistry and physics without reporting subscores; therefore, the state cannot guarantee requisite content knowledge in either subject.