The state should ensure that secondary science and social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Commendably, Tennessee does not offer certification in general science or general social studies for secondary teachers. Teachers must be certified in a specific discipline within a specific subject area.
Tennessee allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests if they possess a bachelor's degree in a core content area.
Praxis Testing Requirements www.ets.org Board of Education Policy 5.502 Appendix A
Eliminate the test exemption.
While a degree may be generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers know the specific content they will need to teach.
Tennessee indicated that the test-delay policy was passed to allow flexibility for educators coming from out-of-state or educators who are enrolling in job-embedded programs. The state will issue a license in cases where the content knowledge of the educator is verified by the educator preparation program. The only alternative to passing a test of content knowledge is having a major in the content area. This comment applies to all related to goals.
3E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies
Specialized science teachers are not interchangeable. Based on their high school science licensure requirements, many states seem to presume that it is all the same to teach anatomy, electrical currents, and Newtonian physics. Most states allow teachers to obtain general science or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines, and, in most cases, these teachers need only pass a general knowledge science exam that does not ensure subject-specific content knowledge. This means that a teacher with a background in biology could be fully certified to teach advanced physics having passed only a general science test—and perhaps answering most of the physics questions incorrectly.
There is no doubt that districts appreciate the flexibility that these broad field licenses offer, especially given the very real shortage of teachers of many science disciplines. But the all-purpose science teacher not only masks but perpetuates the STEM crisis—and does so at the expense of students. States need to either make sure that general science teachers are indeed prepared to teach any of the subjects covered under that license or allow only single-subject science certifications. In either case, states need to consider strategies to improve the pipeline of science teachers, including the use of technology, distance learning and alternate routes into STEM fields.
Similarly, 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 may only be 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.