Qualifications of Public Secondary School History Teachers, 1999-2000

Liam Julian

U.S. Department of Education: National Center for Education Statistics
August 2006

This NCES "issue brief" 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 secondary school 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). To check out this issue brief, click here.

More By Author