Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science:

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: Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Utah's policies

Utah no longer offers a general science certification for secondary teachers. The state discontinued its integrated science endorsement after the 2010-2011 school year. It does, however, have a physical science endorsement, which allows teachers to teach both physics and chemistry. Candidates are required to pass either the Praxis II "Physical Science" content test or the "Chemistry, Physics and General Science" combination test. Further, candidates applying for the chemistry endorsement are required to pass either the Praxis II "Chemistry" content test or the "Chemistry, Physics and General Science" combination test.

The state also offers a middle level science endorsement, which is only available to teachers who already hold a secondary certification in another science area. Commendably, these candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "General Science" content test.

Regrettably, however, Utah allows middle school science teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license, if they are in self-contained classrooms (see Goal 1-E).


Recommendations for Utah

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. Utah'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. Further, candidates for the chemistry endorsement should be required to pass a chemistry content test, rather than a combination assessment that cannot ensure adequate subject matter knowledge.

State response to our analysis

Utah 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).