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Note on the Credentials of "Social Science" Teachers in Public High Schools

As part of its analysis of the 2012 Schools and Staffing Survey data on public high 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-a9, 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.” (Jason Hill and Chelsea Stearns, Education and Certification Qualifications of Departmentalized Public High School–Level Teachers of Selected Subjects: Evidence from the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2015), B-19.)

In 2012, 50% of social science teachers had a primary teaching assignment in history. As Indicator I-a9 shows, 68% of social science teachers had certification and a degree in general social science (or social studies) or one of its constituent disciplines. Only 6% lacked either a major or a certification in the field.

As Indicator I-9a shows, more than a third (37%) of public high school students took history in 2012 with a teacher lacking both certification and a degree in the discipline, but only 6% of students taking social science classes were taught by a teacher lacking both credentials.