Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Kentucky

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social Studies: Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/KY-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Social-Studies-6

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky only offers a general social studies certification to secondary teachers. Candidates are required to pass both the Praxis II "Social Studies: Content Knowledge" test and the "Social Studies: Interpretation of Materials" test. 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 in Kentucky have two options for earning the middle school specialization. The first is completing a major in social studies; the second is completing an unspecified amount of coursework in social studies and another academic field (i.e., English and communications, mathematics or science). Commendably, candidates must also pass the Praxis II "Middle School Social Studies" test. 

Citation

Recommendations for Kentucky

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. Kentucky's required assessments combine all subject areas (e.g., history, geography, economics) and do not report separate scores for each subject area. Therefore, candidates could answer many history questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach history to high school students.

State response to our analysis

Kentucky recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J., "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 22, 459-486 (2009) includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.
 
In addition, research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, vol. XLII no.4 (2007).  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis "Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois," Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does teacher certification matter? High School Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 22: 129-145. (2000); and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources (1998). See also Harris, D., and Sass, T., "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement." Teacher Quality Research (2007).