Note on the Credentials of “Social Science” Teachers in Public Middle Schools


As part of its analysis of the 2012 Schools and Staffing Survey data on public middle school teachers’ qualifications, the National Center for Education Statistics examines the rates of teacher certification and subject degree-holding for “social science” teachers. This general category includes teachers with a primary assignment of social studies or a specific social science subfield/discipline, including history (just as the general category of “natural science,” included in the graph for Indicator I-b9, includes chemistry teachers, for example).

A history teacher “is considered to hold an in-field major or certification in the broad field of social science if he or she holds a major or certification in any of the following fields: social studies (general), anthropology, area/ethnic studies, criminal justice, cultural studies, economics, geography, government/civics, history, international studies, law, Native American studies, political science, psychology, sociology, or other social sciences. However, this same teacher must hold a major or a certification in history to be counted as in-field in the specific subfield of history.” (Stéphane Baldi, Catharine Warner-Griffin, and Chrystine Tadler, Education and Certification Qualifications of Public Middle Grades Teachers of Selected Subjects: Evidence from the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2015), B-15.)

In 2012, 39% of public middle school social science teachers had a primary teaching assignment in history. As Indicator I-b9 shows, 40% of social science teachers had both certification and a major in general social science (or social studies) or one of its constituent disciplines, and 26% lacked both a major and certification.

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