Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that secondary teachers demonstrate sufficient knowledge appropriate grade-level content. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.
Content Test Requirements: Pennsylvania offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis content test to teach any core secondary subjects.
However, Pennsylvania cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers with general social studies licenses.
Endorsements: To add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers in Pennsylvania must also pass a Praxis content test. However, Pennsylvania cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements.
Secondary Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, Pennsylvania allows a general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within this discipline. Because secondary content testing loopholes are scored in Secondary Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Secondary Content Knowledge goal.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Test Requirement www.ets.org/praxis Pennsylvania Code Title 22, Section 49.18
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
Pennsylvania wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see 3-E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.
Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
3D: Secondary Content Knowledge
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 a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students. 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, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.
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. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.