Secondary Teacher Preparation: Oregon

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation: Oregon results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OR-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-6

Analysis of Oregon's policies

Oregon does not ensure that its secondary teachers are adequately prepared to teach grade-level content. 

Oregon requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a content test to teach any core secondary subjects. Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of this requirement. Oregon also permits another significant loophole by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).

Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a content test. However, as stated above, Oregon cannot guarantee content knowledge based on its waiver policy, or in each specific subject for those secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements. 

Citation

Recommendations for Oregon

Require subject-matter testing for secondary teacher candidates.
Oregon should reconsider its waiver policy and, as a condition of licensure, require all 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. The state should also address any loopholes that undermine its testing policy (see Goals 1-G and 1-H). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

State response to our analysis

Oregon noted that in the 2010-2011 school year, it allowed two high school alternative assessments: one in language arts and one in family and consumer science (candidate failed test by one point). Both candidates were required to earn academic majors in the area with a 3.0 GPA in the major coursework, submit documentation of teaching proficiency and demonstrate recent coursework in the subject area.

Oregon also asserted that general science is "Integrated Science," and is primarily used for grade 9 science. The state also requires licensure in biology, chemistry and physics. A candidate with an integrated science license may not teach advanced science coursework. Oregon pointed out that its social studies test is comprehensive for history, geography, economics and civics and that new tests were adopted in September 2010.

Last word

The issue of general science is addressed more fully in Goal 1-G and general social studies in Goal 1-H. Oregon should ensure that its requirements do not make it possible for secondary teachers to be licensed to teach any core subjects with insufficient content knowledge.  

How we graded

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. 

Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered.  A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history. To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith.  

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license.

Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework. As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge. Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject.  

Research rationale

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).