The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
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.
South Dakota Administrative Rules 24:53:07:06 Praxis Testing Requirements www.ets.org
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.
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.
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.