Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:
South Dakota

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science: South Dakota results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of South Dakota's policies

Although South Dakota commendably does not offer a general science certification for secondary teachers, it does have an endorsement in physical science. A content major is required, but candidates are only required to pass the Praxis II "Physical Science" combination content test. 

Middle school science teachers in South Dakota must be certified in a middle level education program. Commendably, candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test.


Recommendations for South Dakota

Require secondary science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each science discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow combination licenses across multiple science disciplines—and require only a comprehensive content test—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. South Dakota's required assessment combines both physics and chemistry and does not report separate scores for each subject. Therefore, a candidate could, for example, answer many physics questions incorrectly on the combination content test, yet still be licensed to teach physics to high school students.

State response to our analysis

South Dakota asserted that it requires secondary science teachers to pass a Praxis II test in each content area they teach. The state further contended that it has Praxis II tests for each science content area.  

Last word

South Dakota's policies to ensure that secondary science teachers know the subject-matter they teach are better than most states. However, the physical science certification falls short. South Dakota offers a secondary endorsement in physical science and requires that these candidates pass the Praxis II "Physical Science" content test. This assessment combines both chemistry and physics without reporting subscores for each subject area. Therefore, the state cannot guarantee that candidates with this physical science endorsement possess adequate subject-matter knowledge in both chemistry and physics, as it may be possible to answer many questions incorrectly in one subject area and still pass the overall test. 

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).