Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Minnesota

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social Studies: Minnesota results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

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).


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."

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).