Middle School Content Knowledge: South Dakota

2017 Secondary Teacher Preparation Policy


The state should ensure that middle school teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Does not meet

Analysis of South Dakota's policies

Content Test Requirements: South Dakota offers single subject 5-8 endorsements which can be obtained after completing either an elementary or secondary preparation program. Candidates for these endorsements may choose can earn a content area major or pass any one of the following tests: Praxis II single subject tests at the middle or secondary level, or the Praxis II Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018), Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001), or the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge for Teaching (7801). Candidates opting for one of the elementary tests take only the subtest corresponding to their single subject endorsement.

None of the options above ensures candidates have sufficient subject matter knowledge at the middle school level.

Middle School Licensure Deficiencies: Unfortunately, South Dakota also offers a K-8 generalist license. Because middle school licensure deficiencies are scored in 3-B: Middle School Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Middle School Content Knowledge goal.

Academic Requirements:
South Dakota articulates that candidates must "know the subject matter they plan to teach," but it does not explicitly require a major or minor in the subject areas.


Recommendations for South Dakota

Require content testing in all core areas.
South Dakota should require subject-matter testing for all middle school teacher candidates in every core academic area they intend to teach as a condition of initial licensure.

Strengthen middle school teachers' subject-matter preparation.
South Dakota should encourage middle school teachers to earn two subject-matter minors. This would allow candidates to gain sufficient knowledge to pass state licensing tests, and it would increase schools' staffing flexibility. However, middle school candidates in South Dakota who intend to teach a single subject should earn a major in that area.

State response to our analysis

South Dakota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.

How we graded

3A: Middle School Content Knowledge 

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new middle school teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every core academic area for which they are licensed to teach.
Content Tests
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state can earn full credit if it offers a middle school license and requires teachers to pass a licensing test in every core academic area in which they are licensed to teach. 
  • One-quarter credit: In some cases, a state can earn one-quarter of a credit for mitigating the negative aspects of a K-8 license, for example, requiring a single subject test to teach that subject at the middle school level.
  • 0/0 credit: The state will not earn any credit if it only offers a K-8 license and only requires an elementary content test.

Research rationale

Middle school grades are critical years of schooling. It is in these years that far too many students fall through the cracks. However, requirements for the preparation and licensure of middle school teachers can be especially problematic. States need to distinguish the knowledge and skills needed by middle school teachers from those needed by an elementary teacher. Whether teaching a single subject in a departmentalized setting or teaching multiple subjects in a self-contained setting, middle school teachers must be able to teach significantly more advanced content than elementary teachers. In order to do so, middle school teachers must be deeply knowledgeable about every subject they will be licensed to teach, and able to pass a licensing test in every core subject to demonstrate this knowledge.[1] The notion that someone should be identically prepared to teach first grade or eighth grade mathematics seems ridiculous, but states that license teachers on a K-8 generalist certificate essentially endorse this idea.

[1] For additional research on the importance of subject matter knowledge, see: Dee, T. S., & Cohodes, S. R. (2008). Out-of-field teachers and student achievement: Evidence from matched-pairs comparisons. Public Finance Review, 36(1), 7-32.; Chaney, B. (1995). Student outcomes and the professional preparation of eighth-grade teachers in science and mathematics. NSF/NELS: 88 Teacher Transcript Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389530; Weglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality (Policy Information Center report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICTEAMAT.pdf ; A report published by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) concludes that a teacher's knowledge of math makes a difference in student achievement. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf