Secondary Teacher Preparation: South Dakota

2013 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

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

Analysis of South Dakota's policies

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

The state, however, permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing a combination science license, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within the discipline (see Goal 1-G).

Commendably, South Dakota does not offer secondary certification in general social studies. Teachers must be certified in a specific discipline within the subject area of social studies. 

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

Citation

Recommendations for South Dakota

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 
South Dakota 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 Dakota should also reevaluate its passing scores so that all tests reflect high levels of performance. For example, the passing scores for the Praxis II English Language, Literature and Composition: Content Knowledge; Government/Political Science; and World and U.S. History tests are set just around the 8th percentile. 

State response to our analysis

South Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that for all subject areas where a Praxis exam has been validated, South Dakota requires a subject-matter Praxis exam. Cut scores for regenerated Praxis exams were set this past summer and include the following assessments: English Language Arts: Content Knowledge (167), Health Education (145), Journalism (150), Mathematics: Content Knowledge (160), Middle School English Language Arts (164), Middle Level Mathematics (165) and Psychology (154).  As exams are regenerated, the normed cut-scores are evaluated, and, in most cases, adopted as South Dakota's cut scores. 

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.