A report released Wednesday singles out Missouri for being the only state in the nation that requires science and social studies teachers to pass tests in all of the subject matters in which they are certified.
“What Missouri does, which is absolutely unique in the country, is that they make sure teachers do not leave programs without passing a test in biology, chemistry, earth science and physics,” according to Kate Walsh, the president of research and advocacy group National Council on Teacher Quality.
She noted that other states’ science-certification tests allow expertise in one subject to balance out lack of knowledge in another area.
“What Missouri does is, it says you can’t do well on the biology portion of the test and do really badly on the physics portion of the test and use that biology score to compensate for the physics score,” Walsh said. “That makes so much sense. Why doesn’t every state do it?”
The report, which surveyed more than 700 colleges with undergraduate education programs, focused only on science and social studies teacher preparation. NCTQ researchers previously found that almost all high school math and English teachers were qualified to teach their subjects.
No Missouri colleges made it into the organization’s “top-tier, secondary teacher prep programs” list, but five are ranked above the 90th percentile nationally: the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Maryville University, William Jewell College in Liberty and Rockhurst University in Kansas City.
The three St. Louis-based universities also fared well on the state education department’s rankings, released for the first time earlier this year.
But without stringent certification requirements at the state level, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville was given a C for social studies preparation and an A for science preparation.
While the group praised Missouri universities for giving education majors a solid subject matter foundation, it found that schools across the nation provide inadequate training in classroom management and insufficient hands-on experience.
“We are so sloppy when it comes to providing practice to future teachers. So it’s no wonder that a teacher goes into a classroom in the first year and we can measure a loss to student learning,” Walsh said.
Her organization only gave two Missouri colleges top grades for classroom management: Harris-Stowe State University and Lindenwood University.
She suggested pairing education students with expert teachers and increasing university observation in a classroom setting.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.