The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Rhode Island offers secondary certification in general social studies. Candidates must earn a total of 36 semester hours, with at least 24 semester hours in history as required for a history certificate. In addition to being valid for teaching history, it may also be endorsed to include any academic area in which a candidate has completed six semester hours. Academic areas include anthropology, economics, geography, political science and sociology. Content tests, however, are not required. 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 Rhode Island must earn a middle school science endorsement. In addition to either an elementary or secondary certificate, candidates must also have either 21 credits in social studies (to include coursework in U.S. history, Western history and nonwestern history, and coursework in at least three of the following: anthropology, economics, geography, political science and sociology), and they must pass the Praxis II "Citizenship Education" content test, or earn a major in the content area.
Further, current state policy allows a teacher with a K-8 license to teach grades 7 and 8, if they are "organized on the elementary school plan." Rhode Island has indicated, however, that there are no longer any such schools; however, the policy does remain on the books.
Require secondary social studies teachers to pass tests of content knowledge for each social studies 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 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.
Rhode Island asserted that it does not issue a K-8 license. The elementary license is for grades 1-6.
The state also noted that it is drafting new regulations that will require a content test for secondary social studies. Currently, Rhode Island requires the Citizenship test for middle school teachers with 21 credits only.