Report: High school history teachers often lack a background in historyBreaking News
In the 2011–2012 school year, approximately 279,800 teachers in the humanities subjects of English, French, German, Latin, Spanish, and history taught millions of students in the nation’s public high schools. To measure teachers’ level of preparation, the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey (NCES, SASS) examines the fields in which they received their teaching certificates and postsecondary degrees. Having both a degree and certification in a subject does not ensure that a teacher will provide quality instruction, but research suggests that teachers’ credentials have at least some bearing on student outcomes, and they remain central to the public policy debate about teacher quality.
● Results from the most recent SASS show that the academic credentials held by public high school educators differ widely by subject area (Indicator I-9a). In music, 87% of teachers with a principal assignment in the subject held a postsecondary degree in the subject and were certified to teach in the field. In comparison, only 26% of history teachers with a principal assignment in the subject had both credentials (note that not all states offer teacher certification in history). And while only 2% of music teachers lacked both certification and a degree in the field, 34% percent of history teachers lacked both credentials. The SASS data indicate that at least some history teachers without a degree in the discipline did have a degree and/or certification in social studies, general social science, or another social science discipline. (NCES, like several other data sources on which the Humanities Indicators relies, treats history as a social science discipline rather than as one within the humanities; please see “Note on the Credentials of ‘Social Science’ Teachers in Public High Schools” for further explanation of the relationship between the “history” and “social science” categories.)...
● Aside from music, less than 73% of students in each of the other major subjects were taught by a teacher with both a college major and certification to teach the subject, ranging from 72% of students in the natural sciences down to 23% of students in history.
● Although 53% of students taking history were learning from teachers with a degree in the subject, only 23% of history students found themselves in classes led by a teacher with both a college major and certification in the subject (note that not all states offer teacher certification in history). However, 68% of students taking social science courses (which include history courses) had a teacher with both a major and certification in general social science (including social studies) or a constituent discipline, suggesting that some students are taught by instructors who lack history credentials but do have a background in the social sciences. (Please see the “Note on the Credentials of ‘Social Science’ Teachers in Public High Schools” for further explanation of the relationship between the “history” and “social science” categories.)...
● From 2004 to 2012, every academic subject saw a declining percentage of students taught by a teacher with a postsecondary degree in that subject. The largest decline occurred in history, where the percentage fell from 66% to 54% (Indicator I-9c). While still above the levels recorded in the 1990s, the share for 2012 is the second recorded decline since the peak in 2004.
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