The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
New Jersey only offers a secondary general social studies certificate. Coursework requirements include a minimum of 15 semester hours in history, with at least one course in U.S. history and one course in world history. Candidates must pass the Praxis II "Social Studies" content 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 New Jersey are required to teach on an "elementary school with subject matter specialization" endorsement. Candidates must earn an academic major, and those teaching more than one content area must be certified in each additional area, which requires 15 credit hours of study in that subject. Commendably, they must also pass the Praxis II "Middle School Social Studies" test.
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 do not require content tests for each area—are not ensuring that these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. New Jersey'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 history questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach history to high school students.
New Jersey recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that these requirements, and NCTQ's comments, are currently under review by the Department of Education, with recommendations and initial policy actions expected by January 1, 2012.