The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Oregon offers secondary certification in general social science. Candidates are required to pass the ORELA "Social Science" content test, which combines all subject areas and does not report subscores. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social science but rather can teach any of the topical areas.
Middle school social science teachers in Oregon have the option of a middle level endorsement. Candidates must either complete a subject major or pass the ORELA "Middle Grades Social Science" test. Oregon also allows middle school social science teachers to teach on a generalist 3-8 license (see Goal 1-E).
Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of the subject-matter requirement.
Oregon Administrative Rules 584-017-0130, 584-060-0012 Oregon Educator Licensure Assessments www.orela.nesinc.com
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 only require a general knowledge social studies exam—are not ensuring that their secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Oregon'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. The state should also reconsider its waiver for subject-matter testing.
Require middle school social studies teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of social studies.
Although coursework plays a key role in teachers' acquisition of content knowledge, program completion should not replace the requirement of an assessment, which is the only way to ensure that teachers possess adequate knowledge of the subject area. While a major is generally indicative of background in a particular subject area, only a subject-matter test ensures that candidates know the specific content they will need to teach. The state should also reconsider its waiver for subject-matter testing.
Oregon recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.