Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social
Studies: Texas

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Secondary Teacher Preparation in Social Studies: Texas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TX-Secondary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Social-Studies-6

Analysis of Texas's policies

Texas offers secondary certification in general social studies. Candidates are required to pass the TExES "Social Studies" content test, which combines all subject areas and does not report subscores. These teachers may teach all secondary social studies and economics courses. 

Middle school social studies teachers in Texas may teach on either a generalist (4-8) or a subject-specific (4-8) endorsement. Candidates must earn either an academic discipline major or an interdisciplinary academic major. They must also pass a subject-matter test. Those seeking the subject-specific endorsement must take a single-subject test; however, those teaching under the generalist license only have to pass the generalist exam, in which social studies accounts for just 23 percent of the test, and subscores are not reported.

Citation

Recommendations for Texas

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 these secondary teachers possess adequate subject-specific content knowledge. Texas'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 middle school social studies teachers to pass a test of content knowledge that ensures sufficient knowledge of social studies.
Although the state's testing requirements for its subject-specific endorsements ensure adequate subject matter knowledge, Texas should require that even its middle school social studies teachers teaching on the generalist 4-8 certificate have the requisite knowledge in the specific content. The state's current policy of only requiring a general exam falls short of guaranteeing adequate subject matter knowledge for these teachers. 

State response to our analysis

Texas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the social studies 8-12 test will be eliminated and separate content tests will be developed for history, economics, geography, political science, psychology and sociology. This has been announced to all programs, and development will begin on September 1, 2011. Also, grade levels may be realigned to grades 7-12, which would eliminate the 4-8 examinations. The issuance of the testing RFP (Request for Proposal) included realignment of 8-12 examinations to grades 7-12.

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

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).