Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Oklahoma

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: Oklahoma results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OK-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Social-Studies-6

Analysis of Oklahoma's policies

Oklahoma does not offer secondary certification in general social studies. However, the state does offer certifications to secondary teachers that combine content areas. For example, candidates may choose from the following: U.S. history/Oklahoma history/government/economics; world history/geography; and psychology/sociology. They are required to pass the corresponding OSAT content test, which combines these subject areas and does not report subscores.

Middle school social studies teachers in Oklahoma may opt for certification in middle level social studies. Candidates must earn a major in a content-related area, and, commendably, they must also pass the OSAT "Middle Level Social Studies" test. Unfortunately, Oklahoma allows middle school social studies teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license (see Goal 1-E).

Citation

Recommendations for Oklahoma

Require secondary social studies teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each social studies discipline they intend to teach.
States that allow combination social studies certifications—and only require combination social studies exams—are not ensuring that their secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Oklahoma is on the right track in not offering a general social studies certification; however, its certification policy falls short because the required assessments combine subject areas and do not report separate scores for each subject area. 

State response to our analysis

Oklahoma asserted that middle level social studies teachers are required to meet the highly qualified criteria as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. They must either pass the appropriate social studies subject-area test or meet the requirements for building a HOUSSE. The state also contended that subscores for the social studies subject-area exams are reported to both the examinees and teacher preparation programs.

Last word

Since Oklahoma's subject-area exams already provide subscores, the state should consider using this information to ensure that teacher candidates with obvious weaknesses in particular areas are not licensed to teach those areas.   

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).