Qualifications of Public Secondary School History Teachers, 1999–2000

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[An issue brief issued by The U.S. Department of Education: National Center for Education Statistics]' examines the qualifications of those who taught secondary school history during 1999-2000.

While earlier studies looked at the percentages of teachers ''in-field'' (those with a postsecondary major and state certification in the subject they were teaching) and ''out-of-field'' (those without), the extent to which out-of-field teachers have other training or skills related to their subject has gone mostly unexamined. This paper sifts through the data and presents some interesting findings. For example, only 45 percent of secondary school history students were taught by a teacher with a college major or minor in history. Of the 55 percent of students whose teachers lacked such degrees, 73 percent were taught by an instructor who had a major or minor in another social science. Eighty-six percent of secondaryschool history students had history teachers with state social studies certification (of course that figure is ten points lower in schools serving poor kids). Six percent of students had teachers with no certification at all. Overall, some 9 percent of secondary-level history students are taught by instructors with neither a certification in social studies nor a major or minor in history; that number climbs to 13 percent for high poverty schools. This short paper provides many more fascinating tidbits; for example, did you know that almost 12 percent of secondary school history teachers majored in phys ed? (If you've ever met a high school football coach, perhaps you did.) It remains to be seen whether NCLB's highly-qualified teacher provisions will change this situation--but we're not holding our breath).

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michael Randolph stephenson - 8/12/2006

I would like to thank you for bringing this information to the public's attention. As a history teacher who majored in history I can attest to the value of having such a degree. I have taught for 15 years in public schools here in Memphis. During this time I can tell readers that I was shocked at the lack of content knowledge among some of my peers. Indeed many were placed in their positions simply because they were willing to coach. I was hired many years ago only because I agreed to coach. Now that I have "paid my dues" I have been allowed to be "only a teacher." As a mentor teacher for about the same length of time I would have to say that only a couple of my student teachers had any real depth of content knowledge. I thing that NCLB is not a cure all for education and in fact it has caused a great many problems. However I do believe that if nothing else, the Bush initiative is creating more knowledgeable teachers. Now if we could all get back to meaningful history lessons instead of having to "teach for a test" then, we would all be better off.