Secondary Teacher Preparation: South Carolina

2013 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Secondary Teacher Preparation: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SC-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-20

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, South Carolina permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines.

General social studies candidates are required to pass the Praxis II Social Studies: Content and Interpretation test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the topical areas.

Further, although the state offers additional secondary certifications in the specific social studies areas (e.g., history, government, geography), it still only requires the same general content tests mentioned above. (For the state's science loophole, see Goal 1-G.)

Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a Praxis II content test. However, as stated above, South Carolina cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements. 

Citation

Recommendations for South Carolina

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 
South Carolina wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Goal 1-G). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

To ensure that its secondary content tests are meaningful, South Carolina should also reevaluate its passing scores so that all tests reflect high levels of performance. For example, the passing score for the Praxis II Mathematics: Proofs, Models and Problems test is set just below the 7th percentile. 

Require secondary social studies teachers to pass a content test for each discipline they are licensed to teach.
By allowing a general social studies certification—and only requiring a general knowledge social studies exam—South Carolina is not ensuring that its secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. The state's required assessment combines all subject areas (e.g., history, geography, economics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area.

State response to our analysis

South Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that this goal is one that the state superintendent has placed as a high priority item. South Carolina has recently reviewed and set initial cut-scores for secondary content examinations in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics and science. It will require teachers licensed in the sciences to first pass a content test in one disciplinary area (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics). Those who pass the appropriate test will initially be licensed in the disciplinary field of the test and thereafter be eligible to seek certification in broad-field science as an add-on certification only. This item will go before the state board in October 2013.

South Carolina also noted that this same process is being reviewed in the licensure area of social studies. The state will consult with constituencies on the process of requiring initial licensure in history, economics, government or psychology with the option to subsequently seek add-on certification in broad-field social studies. 

How we graded

Research rationale

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. 

Is a social studies teacher prepared to teach history?

Most states offer a general social studies license at the secondary level.  For this certification, teachers can have a background in a wide variety of fields, ranging from history and political science to anthropology or psychology and are usually only required to pass a general social studies test.  Under such a license a teacher who majored in psychology could be licensed to teach secondary history having passed only a general knowledge test and answering most—and perhaps all—history questions incorrectly.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research

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, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; 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, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

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, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; 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, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.