Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Minnesota

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

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

Analysis of Minnesota's policies

Minnesota only offers a general social studies certification to secondary teachers. Candidates are required to pass the MTLE "Social Studies" test, which is comprised of two subtests. Subtest One combines social studies skills, world history, and U.S. and Minnesota history. Subtest Two combines geography, government and citizenship, economics and behavioral sciences. Candidates must pass each subtest to pass the 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 must earn a specific middle level endorsement, which requires a minor in social studies and an initial license in either elementary or secondary teaching. Commendably, candidates must also pass the MTLE Middle Level "Social Studies" test. Unfortunately, a teacher holding an elementary K-6 license may teach grades 7 and 8 in self-contained classrooms (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for Minnesota

Require secondary social studies teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each social studies discipline they intend to teach.
Although Minnesota's new test is on the right track with its requirement of a passing score on each subtest, the state still combines subject areas within those subtests without reporting individual scores. Therefore, Minnesota falls short by not ensuring that secondary social studies teachers have the requisite content knowledge in all subject areas.

State response to our analysis

Minnesota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that although the reference to self-contained classrooms taught by teachers with a K-6 license is accurate, it should be noted that these settings are rare and represent unique student populations such as those in a one-room schoolhouse. "The vast majority of teachers teach in a middle school, junior high school, or combined middle and high school, and are held to the requirement of a content-specific endorsement."

How we graded

Is a social studies teacher prepared to teach history?

Just as with broad field science, most states offer a general social studies license at the secondary level.  For this certification, teachers can have a background in a wide variety of fields, ranging from history and political science to anthropology or psychology. Under such a license a teacher who majored in psychology could be licensed to teach secondary history having passed only a general knowledge test and answering most—and perhaps all—history questions incorrectly.

Middle school social studies teachers must know middle grade-level social studies.  

Middle school teachers should demonstrate their knowledge of social studies through a test with a separate passing score for this subject area. General knowledge tests with an overall passing score can mask serious weaknesses in teachers' content knowledge. As problematic as general tests with a composite passing score are for elementary teachers, the problem is exacerbated for middle school teachers, who may well teach only one subject in a departmentalized setting.  

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).