Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: New York

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social Studies: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of New York's policies

New York only offers secondary certification in general social studies. Coursework requirements include study in economics, government, and at least a total of 21 semester hours of study in the history and geography of the United States and the world. Candidates must pass the NYSTCE "Social Studies" 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 York have the option of a middle grades specialist certificate, which requires a major in social studies that includes study in economics, government, and at least 21 semester hours in both U.S. and world history and geography. Candidates must pass the NYSTCE "Social Studies" test. Those teaching grades 7 and 8 in a K-8 setting, however, are required to earn a generalist in middle childhood education certificate and must only pass the state's multi-subject exam. 


Recommendations for New York

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 York's 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.

Require all middle school science teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of science.
Although New York's specialist option ensures requisite subject matter knowledge, the state's generalist option falls short. The multi-subject exam combines English, math, science, social studies, fine arts, health and fitness, and family and consumer science and career development and does not report separate scores for each subject area.

State response to our analysis

New York 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).