The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Arkansas only offers secondary teachers a general social studies certification. The state does not mandate specific major/minor requirements, but rather it articulates a set of competencies to address requisite knowledge in a particular area. Candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "Social Studies" content knowledge and essay tests. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the topical areas.
Middle school social studies teachers are required to select a major in English language arts/social studies and then must earn at least 18 credits in each of the two disciplines in their competency area. As of November 1, 2011, all new middle school teacher candidates will be required to take the Praxis II Middle School: Multiple Subjects assessment, which will report a cut score for each of the four content areas. Candidates will be allowed to re-take any section that they do not pass; however, all sections must be passed prior to licensure.
Require secondary social studies teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each social studies discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow general social studies certifications—and only require a general knowledge social studies exam—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Arkansas's required assessment combines all subject areas (e.g., history, geography, economics) and does not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, candidates could answer many—perhaps all—history questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach history to high school students.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.