The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Utah offers secondary certification in general social studies, called composite social studies by the state. Candidates are required to pass the Praxis II "Social Studies" content test. Teachers with this license are not limited to teaching general social studies but rather can teach any of the topical areas.
Further, although Utah offers subject-specific endorsements in social studies, such as economics, geography and history, the state requires candidates to pass either the subject-specific Praxis II content test or the general assessment mentioned above.
The state does not offer a middle level endorsement for social studies, as its secondary license is valid in grades 6-12. Utah also allows middle school science teachers to teach on a generalist 1-8 license, if they are in self-contained classrooms (see Goal 1-E).
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. Utah's required 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—perhaps all—history questions, for example, incorrectly, yet still be licensed to teach history to high school students.
Utah should also require specific content tests for its subject certifications, such as history and geography. The state's allowance of a general content test even for its subject-specific certifications undermines its apparent effort to ensure content knowledge in each area of social studies.
Utah recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.