Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:
South Carolina

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SC-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Science-6

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina offers a secondary certificate in general science. Teachers with this certificate may teach all science courses in high school. Candidates must pass the Praxis II "Biology and General Science" test or the "Chemistry, Physics and General Science" test. Neither of these combination testing options ensures adequate subject matter knowledge for all areas of secondary science.

South Carolina also has other problematic testing requirements for its single-subject science certificates. Biology teachers must pass the combination "Biology and General Science" test; chemistry and physics teachers must pass the combined "Chemistry, Physics and General Science" test. It is unclear why the state does not simply require the single-area content knowledge tests, rather than these combination tests, which do not guarantee subject-matter knowledge in a particular area.

Middle school science teachers in South Carolina must earn middle level certification in science. A subject-area minor is required. Commendably, candidates must also pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test.

Citation

Recommendations for South Carolina

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general science certifications or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and only require a general knowledge science exam—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. South Carolina's required general assessments combine subject areas (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics) and do not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, candidates could answer many—perhaps all—chemistry questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach chemistry to high school students. 

State response to our analysis

South Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

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).