The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content.
West Virginia requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects. Unfortunately, West Virginia permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses, without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see Goals 1-G and 1-H).
Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a Praxis II content test. However, as stated above, West Virginia cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for those secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements.
Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
West Virginia wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see Goals 1-G and 1-H). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.
West Virginia asserted that individuals with a general science endorsement (5-adult) are required to pass the Biology, Physical Science and General Science Praxis II content exams. A candidate may elect to substitute either the Chemistry or Physics content test for the Physical Science content test.
The issue of general science is addressed more fully in Goal 1-G. West Virginia should ensure that its requirements do not make it possible for secondary teachers with insufficient content knowledge to be licensed to teach any core subjects.
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, Pressely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois" Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does teacher certification matter? High School Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 22: 129-145. (2000); 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 (1998).