Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that science teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
West Virginia offers a secondary endorsement in general science. Because there is no corresponding baccalaureate degree in general science, the state requires not less than 48 credit hours in the content area. Candidates must pass all of the following Praxis II tests: "Biology" (Part 1), "Physical Science," and "General Science" (Part 2). However, the state allows a passing score for either the chemistry or physics subject-specific endorsements to be submitted in substitution for the physical science test requirement outlined above. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.
Middle school science teachers in West Virginia must earn a middle level endorsement. Candidates must complete a subject-area minor and, commendably, they must also pass the Praxis II "Middle School Science" test.
Title 126 Legislative Rules, Board of Education, Series 114, Policy 5100, 6.3.2 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 general science certifications—but don't require passing scores on content tests for each subject area taught—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Although West Virginia requires more tests than many of the other states that allow a general science endorsement, its requirements still do not ensure adequate subject matter knowledge. For example, a candidate could submit a passing score on the "Chemistry" exam to satisfy the physical science requirement, and then answer many questions incorrectly regarding physics on the "General Science" exam, yet still go on to teach high school physics.
West Virginia asserted that teachers who hold the general science endorsement are not eligible to teach "any of the topical" areas as mentioned above. They are allowed to teach general science in grades 5-8, as well as physical science, earth science and environmental science at the high school level.
Even if these are the only classes that general science teachers are allowed to teach at the secondary level, there still is no guarantee that they possess the requisite knowledge in these areas, based on West Virginia's testing requirements. Physical science teachers must be able to teach both chemistry and physics. The Praxis II Physical Science content test does not report subscores for each of these areas, so a candidate could potentially answer many questions incorrectly in one area yet still pass the test. Candidates that choose to substitute either the Chemistry or Physics test for the Physical Science test will be teaching a subject area in which they have never been tested.
Interestingly, biology is the only area in which the state can guarantee requisite knowledge based on its testing requirements, yet this is the one subject general science teachers may not teach in high school.