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ERIC Number: ED512673
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 12
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
The All-Purpose Science Teacher: An Analysis of Loopholes in State Requirements for High School Science Teachers
National Council on Teacher Quality
The basic story line of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) crisis is, at this point, well known. In an increasingly interdependent and technology-driven economy, America is falling behind. A substantial number of students cannot perform basic math. U.S. students lag behind peers in international comparisons of science and math knowledge and skills. Fewer American students than ever are graduating from college with math and science degrees, and there is a shortage of K-12 teachers in STEM fields. In this paper, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) shows that the problem is deeper still. The U.S. suffers not only because of the math and science teachers we "don't" have--in many cases we also set unacceptably low expectations for the STEM teachers we "do" have. Based on their high school science licensure requirements, many states seem to presume that it is all the same to teach anatomy, electrical currents and Newtonian physics. NCTQ's analysis of state policies regarding these requirements finds that many states fail to guarantee that biology, chemistry and physics teachers have mastered the content they teach. Most states cling to a loose definition of "science teacher"--ultimately treating specialized science teachers as interchangeable. As a result, it is necessary to examine preparation and credentialing requirements, which, as this report shows, include some pretty big loopholes for secondary science educators. NCTQ finds, in fact, that all but 11 states allow secondary science teachers to obtain general-science certifications or combination licenses across multiple science disciplines. In most cases, these teachers need only pass a general-knowledge science exam that does not ensure subject-specific content knowledge. Having reviewed each state's secondary-school science certification policies, this report divides the states into three categories. A green light indicates that a state has adequately ensured that its high school teachers possess the content knowledge necessary to teach specific scientific subjects. Yellow means the state combines subject-area science certification with general-knowledge science assessments, thus allowing teachers to teach specific courses without the requisite content knowledge. Finally, this report exposes states with catch-all science certification requirements, including some that make no demands on teachers to demonstrate specific content expertise, by giving them red lights.
National Council on Teacher Quality. 1420 New York Avenue NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-393-0020; Fax: 202-393-0095; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Council on Teacher Quality