Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Nebraska

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social Studies: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NE-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Social-Studies-6

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska offers a secondary endorsement in general social science. Candidates are required to take 60 semester hours of coursework in the social sciences (economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, and either anthropology or sociology). This includes at least 21 semester hours in history, of which nine must be in U.S. history and nine in world history. The remaining social science areas require a minimum of six semester hours each. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the topical areas. Candidates are not required to pass a content test.

Middle school social science teachers in Nebraska must complete a content area of specialization in social science, which requires a minimum of 18 semester hours. A content test is not required. Also, although Nebraska's elementary license is typically valid for grades 1-6, teacher candidates may teach grades 7 and 8 if they are in self-contained classrooms (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Require secondary social science teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each social science discipline they intend to teach.
Although coursework plays a key role in teachers' acquisition of content knowledge, it should be accompanied by the requirement of an assessment, which is the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the subject area.

Require middle school social science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of social science.

State response to our analysis

Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it does not agree with NCTQ's assertion that Nebraska does not ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content. NCTQ indicators are focused on testing and the fact that Nebraska does not require tests for licensure. Because the NCTQ standard is to require content tests, rather than focus on whether the preparation program ensures that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach the content, NCTQ's rating is correct by its standard.

Last word

As noted in Goal 1-F, Nebraska is putting unjustified faith in the relevance and rigor of coursework. While the state does make sure there is course coverage of all of the areas included under the social sciences, many can be taught with just six semester hours. It is difficult to see that this could ensure knowledge of appropriate breadth and depth to prepare teachers for the secondary classroom.  

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).