Secondary Content Knowledge: New Mexico

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content. This goal was reorganized in 2017.

Meets in part

Analysis of New Mexico's policies

Content Test Requirements: New Mexico offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 7-12. The state  requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Endorsement: To add a secondary endorsement to an existing license, teachers in New Mexico must either pass a content test or earn 24-36 semester hours of credit in the subject area.

Secondary Licensure Deficiencies:
Unfortunately, New Mexico allows both general science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines. Because secondary content testing loopholes are scored in 3-E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies, it is not considered as part of the score for the Secondary Content Knowledge goal.

Citation

Recommendations for New Mexico

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates.
New Mexico wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see 3-E: Secondary Licensure Deficiencies analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.

Require subject-matter testing when adding subject-area endorsements.

New Mexico should require passing scores on subject-specific content tests, regardless of other coursework or degree requirements, for teachers who are licensed in core secondary subjects and wish to add another subject area, or endorsement, to their licenses. Although coursework 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.

State response to our analysis

New Mexico stated that it requires all teachers seeking secondary licensure to complete a minimum of 24 semester credit hours (minimum 12 hours at a 300 level or higher) in their initial endorsement and pass a rigorous content knowledge exam. The state also indicated that its choice of a generalist endorsement for science and social studies was made to meet the needs of its rural state. New Mexico also noted that it appreciates the feedback about these endorsements and will continue to examine areas in which the state can improve.

How we graded

3D: Secondary Content Knowledge

  • Content Tests: The state should require that all new secondary teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test in every subject they are licensed to teach.
  • Additional Endorsements: The state should require that all secondary teachers pass a separately scored subject-matter test when adding subject-area endorsements to an existing license.
Content Tests
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires all new secondary teachers to pass a separately scored licensing test in every subject they are licensed to teach. 
Additional Endorsements
One-half of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires all secondary teachers to pass a separately scored content test to add subject-area endorsements to an existing license.

Research rationale

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and a rigorous, subject-matter specific test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. In fact, research suggests that a positive correlation exists between teachers' content knowledge and the academic achievement of their students.[1] Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered. A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history. To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history, or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith, whereas a rigorous content test could verify aspiring teachers' knowledge in each topic area.

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license. Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework. As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge. Even states that require a content test for initial licensure should require an additional content test for adding an endorsement.


[1] Monk, D. (1994). Subject-area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Research, 32(3), 505-523.; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2010). The all-purpose science teacher: An analysis of loopholes in state requirements for high school science teachers. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/NCTQ_All_Purpose_Science_Teacher.pdf; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2014). Infographic on secondary certification. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_-_Standard_7,8_Groundwork_-_Infographic_on_Secondary_Certification; For consideration for elementary teachers' need to master content knowledge, see: Goldhaber, D. (2007). Everyone's doing it, but what does teacher testing tell us about teacher effectiveness? Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 765-794.; See also: Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7), 798-812. Retrieved from
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509656.pdf; For research on this effect specific to reading achievement: Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of elementary teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.