By: Amanda J. Zullo, NBCT, Policy Fellow with the New York Educator Voice Fellowship
Re: Providing Additional Subject Certification Pathways for Science


The continual shortage in science teachers in New York since 2000 threatens the sustainability and practical implementation of science classes in all school districts, according to the USDOE (1) . This shortage is particularly present in the areas of the upper level sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and in ‘hard to teach in’ urban and rural locales. With the adoption of updated New York State Science Learning standards, science licensure needs shift to ensure the quality and accessibility of science teaching and learning.


Current certified teachers who are rated a minimum of “Effective” in one science area should be able to obtain the license to teach additional science contents by achieving competency on the  current licensure exam for additional content areas. Teachers who have obtained National Board Certification can extend their certification to include to all sciences. These changes would increase the number of already high quality teachers legally able to teach additional science classes providing schools with more options for science staffing.


According to the Learning Policy Institute (2), New York is one of the 40 states that reported a teacher shortage in science during the 2015-2016 school year. The majority of uncertified science teachers in New York are employed in districts that serve low-income and minority students. The number of uncertified science teachers in New York is more than its neighboring states.

All states require, at the minimum, a Bachelor’s degree to become a teacher. Since 2004, New York additionally requires 30 semester hours of subject-specific coursework, in addition to 21 semester hours of  pedagogical core courses;  workshops in child abuse intervention and school violence; and 40 days of student teaching. Currently, in order to obtain a second license an educator needs 24 subject-specific hours and the passing of a content exam. New York’s requirements significantly exceed those of neighboring states and every other state across the nation. Science is the only content area in New York State with such rigid licensure requirements.

The shift in licensure requirements has resulted in less licenses being issued for every certification area except the middle childhood science subjects which requires 30 science credit hours, non-subject specific. With less high school science licenses being issued, there are less teachers available to teach in the science subject areas, resulting in our current science teacher shortage.


Update Title 8 80-3, or 80-5.22 to state:

1. Teachers certified and rated a minimum of effective in one science area can obtain the license to teach additional science contents by achieving competency on the  current licensure exam for additional content areas.

This proposed change will continue to honor New York’s high credit hour requirement for initial certification. It will also uphold high certification level status among other states that National Council on Teacher Quality outlines. Ten states (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma) have certification programs similar to New York that require teachers to have a strong set of classes (although not as many credit hours) in the subject area and passing a content exam in that area.

2. Teachers who have obtained National Board Certification can extend their certification to include licensure to teach all sciences.

The National Board Certification exam requires content knowledge for all science areas (7) in order to obtain a passing score. It is als key to note that 43 states connect this level of voluntary certification to their state certification (8).  During the past decade, research from states across the country has shown that students taught by Board-certified teachers learn more than students taught by other teachers (9). Studies of teacher effectiveness, particularly in upper level science classes, indicate that teachers who have obtained National Board Certification are significantly more effective (10).

The change in licensure requirements can be shared via the Science Teachers Association of New York, NYSUT and across the TEACH platform placing the information directly in the hands of the teachers whom it would impact. Teachers may choose to extend their certification based on their personal and school needs.

Changes in either of these accounts would not cost additional funding to the state as they rely on systems currently in place at the state and national level.

For more information, contact the New York Educator Voice Fellowship or email 

[Footnotes, works cited]


  2. Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., and Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.



  5.; figure 3b p. 19



  8. Exstrom, Michelle. (2015) Today’s Board Certification for Teacher’s. Washington DC: National Conference of State Legislatures