The state should ensure that social studies teachers know all the subject matter they are licensed to teach.
Virginia offers secondary certification in general social studies. Called history and social sciences by the state, candidates must complete 51 semester hours in the following areas: history (a major or 18 semester hours, with coursework in American history, Virginia history and world history); political science (a major or 18 semester hours, with coursework in American government); geography (nine semester hours); and economics (six semester hours). They must also pass the Praxis II "Social Studies" general content exam. 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 Virginia must earn a history and social sciences concentration that includes courses in American history, world history, economics, American government and geography. Commendably, candidates must also pass the Praxis II "Middle School Social Studies" test.
Virginia Administrative Code 8-20-22-170, -390 Praxis Testing Requirements www.ets.org
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. Virginia'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.
Virginia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.