Published Date

April 1, 2016

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For Departments

Note: The publication of this advice document prepared by the Teaching Division of the American Historical Association does not imply that the Association endorses either the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accrediting standards or the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) standards. The Teaching Division wants to thank Alberta Dougan, Southeast Missouri State University; Charles Ford, Norfolk State University; Timothy Hall, Central Michigan University; Tim Keirn, California State University, Long Beach; Charles Myers, Vanderbilt University; Kathleen Steeves, George Washington University; and Carl Ashley, Noralee Frankel, and Pillarisetti Sudhir, AHA staff.

The Teaching Division of the AHA does not claim to be an authority on the review of history departments conducted by the NCATE and the NCSS to determine the extent to which departments running teacher preparation programs meet the standards set out by these bodies (and the specifics of which are available online at But officers of the AHA have talked with many people who have been involved in such reviews in various ways and offer a few suggestions for departments that are in the process of being reviewed, or will soon be. While the suggestions made here cannot be guaranteed to work, they may still prove helpful because they are based upon accumulated knowledge.

Getting Started

Under a recently implemented division of work, NCATE reviews the pedagogical aspects of teacher preparation programs, while the NCSS reviews the content knowledge and skills of students in such programs. The former involves the visit of a team of professionals for discussions with faculty and students. In contrast, the review of content aspects does not require such visits. What it does require is a document demonstrating that a program meets the NCSS content standards-the 10 thematic standards for a general social science teaching license and the five disciplinary standards for specific social sciences, if a state has such disciplinary licenses (see more on this below). Most important of all, officers of the NCSS in charge of the reviews have agreed that history departments can demonstrate their students’ mastery of the standards through items taught in history courses. A department may need to adapt how a few items are tested in courses, but that will not normally require transforming the courses themselves significantly.

Some history departments may be starting the review process, and others may be in the middle of it. But all face the same general issues-to write a document that shows how a program has incorporated into its courses the 10 social studies standards and has come up with test results that demonstrate such incorporation. This does not by any means require a department to revamp a program fundamentally. You may be teaching courses in history, perhaps also in history education, and yet you are also by definition teaching many if not all aspects of the social studies (the most common term in the schools, though “social sciences” is also used sometimes). The question is how to identify where courses address the 10 Thematic Standards and how to prove that a program has taught them successfully.

The standards in question are the following: (1) Culture and Cultural Diversity; (2) Time, Continuity, and Change; (3) People, Places, and Environment; (4) Individual Development and Identity; (5) Individuals, Groups, and Institutions; (6) Power, Authority, and Governance; (7) Production, Distribution and Consumption; (8) Science, Technology, and Society; (9) Global Connections; and (10) Civic Ideals and Practices.

There also exist five Disciplinary Standards for the subjects in the social studies for use in states that have specific disciplinary licenses in the disciplines of history, geography, civics and government, economics, and psychology (that is, Disciplinary Standards 2.1-2.5, respectively). Remember that teaching in the public schools requires what is called either a “credential” or a “certificate,” a license to teach within a particular discipline. Different states offer a wide variety of credentials in history and the various social studies disciplines, but virtually all states grant one that enables candidates to teach all of the disciplines. The document needs to address the disciplinary standards only if the state provides licenses for those disciplines alone. It is advisable to discuss (in any review document) the subjects taught for the disciplinary standards in somewhat greater detail than for the 10 social science standards.

The most important place to start in preparing for the review is for the history faculty to get to know faculty in their university’s school or department of education. Closer links between historians and educators will be mutually beneficial. Colleagues in education can help explain the terminology of the NCSS; in fact, in some instances they have drawn history faculty into review projects since they themselves are unsure what the NCSS wants. If a history department involves itself in the review process from the very start it can define how the ten standards are applied and thereby make them more meaningful intellectually.

By the same token, history departments should have (or acquire) faculty who are experienced with school outreach programs. It has become more and more common for departments to sponsor summer or year-round workshops or courses in partnership with school districts; in fact, there is an increasing sense that a department is expected to do that. Planning such events depends upon cultivating faculty with special interest in that direction.

The Three Types of Evidence:

It is vital to gain a clear idea of what the three aspects of an NCATE review involve: Programmatic EvidenceTest Evidence, and Performance Evidence.

1. The section on Programmatic Evidence is basically course work that is related specifically to one of the standards. In the document submitted to the NCSS review board, a department needs to explain how its curriculum provides candidates (as the Program Standards book puts it on p. 14), “a reasonable opportunity to master the knowledge, skills, and dispositions requisite to success as a social studies teacher.” More specifically, the document must list the courses within which a topic pertinent to a standard is taught, and give examples of these items. It is acceptable to present a single topic for each of the ten standards as long as each one relates to the subject and is described in concrete, substantial terms.

There are several different options for courses where a program can show that it has taught the standards: courses in history that bear directly upon the standards, courses in other disciplines, general education courses, and courses in the methods of teaching history. Different departments will draw upon these options in different ways. For the first option, courses directly pertinent to a standard, remember that virtually any history course would meet Standard 1.2 (Time, Continuity and Change). For the second option (“other disciplines”), it is possible to draw upon a geography course for Standard 1.3 (People and Environments) or upon an introductory Political Science course for Standard 1.10 (Civic Ideals), as well as from a history course. For the third option, a history department can use the general education courses that are designed, for example, to fulfill a requirement for the study of national and state governments. Such a course can be cited as providing knowledge appropriate to Standards 6 and Standard 9, in addition to other history courses students may take that will increase their knowledge about government and politics. We will look into methods courses for teaching history below.

The main point about programmatic evidence is that in all cases the ten standards listed above can be approached in historical terms. Those in charge of the review process have said explicitly that the standards can be taught and assessed within an historical framework, as long as the program follows the instructions given. For example, one could teach the standard concerned with psychology, “Individual Development and Identity,” with an assignment on the life of a great figure and his/her times, or the one on sociology, “Individuals, Groups, and Institutions,” with one on the roles of a Roman citizen or an American slave. When it is not obvious how the title of a course relates to an NCSS thematic standard, include a brief narrative explaining why that course is appropriate, and include a copy of the syllabus in an appendix to help reviewers understand your explanation. Remember as well that the document will look stronger to the review board if it shows that students are exposed to standard-appropriate content in more than one course.

2. The Test Evidence section involves presenting evidence that demonstrates that students have the requisite content knowledge as set out in the standards to teach them effectively. This evidence must be measurable and apply to each of the specific standards. Moreover, this evidence must come from student performance in the college or university classroom. Evidence of student mastery of the content as stipulated in the standards can be provided in a variety of ways. Often, data of grades can be demonstrable evidence as long as it is shown that the course (and its overall grade) directly relates to the standard. When a course matches the coverage stipulated by the standard, data of student performance must be specific to the students who are in the teacher preparation program, not for the entire class. The challenge here is to collect appropriate testing data. It is good to cultivate relationships with colleagues in other departments-political science most of all-so that they can assist in gathering the data needed to prove that students have fulfilled the standards.

The Educational Testing Service gives a test for future teachers called PRAXIS II that is used in most states as evidence that a student has mastered content in a field where he or she will teach. The ETS can pull out-“disaggregate”-scores from the exam that show student mastery of the content as laid out in many, if not all, of the standards. The document must explain what number constitutes a passing score on PRAXIS and should explain how students receive remediation if they receive low scores. Six scores relating to four of the standards can be so disaggregated: economics (standard 1.7); government (standard 1.10); geography (standard 1.3); U.S. and world history (both scores meet standard 1.2). The behavioral science score is too general to meet the intent of the specific standards without additional evidence of student mastery.

Where courses or PRAXIS II do not correlate specifically with a standard, it is necessary to provide evidence of student performance on particular assignments or units within a course that is specific to the intent of the standard. For example, standard 1.8 (Science, Technology, and Society) could, for example, be met by evidence of student mastery of an assignment within a modern European history course that analyses the role of technology in the Industrial Revolution. Again, the data must represent only students who are in the teacher preparation program. Finally, one can also submit evidence from teaching methods courses where students prepare lesson plans that relate specifically to the standards.

Note that there is a new version of PRAXIS under development that will be tied directly to the ten thematic standards. States that provide teaching licenses by discipline will likely require their students to take the discipline-specific PRAXIS test and may want them to take both the social studies and the history tests. Still, some states will not adopt the new PRAXIS, and others are moving to different tests altogether, some produced commercially and some locally.

3. The Performance Evidence section relates specifically to evidence of student performance in the elementary- or secondary-school classroom working directly with pupils. The evidence should demonstrate that the student can effectively teach the content and skills as set out by the standards. The evaluation of student teachers must relate specifically to their ability to teach to the specific standards. While it is possible to provide such evidence from introductory education courses, there must also be demonstrable evidence of candidates actually teaching elementary or secondary pupils. Although it is not necessary to give evidence of teaching performance for all the standards, a significant majority must be addressed to obtain accreditation. See below for further discussion of how to do this. While the department of education in a university usually handles this section, an increasing number of history departments supervise student teachers in the schools and therefore take responsibility for it.

Things to Remember:

It is important to follow closely what is asked in Book 2 of the NCSS procedures, Program Standards for the Initial Preparation of Social Studies Teachers. The most important part of the document a program submits is the matrix of standards organized by the three aspects of review furnished in the book. Remember that it does not specify exactly how to devise the testing of students; that is the department’s responsibility. Indeed, all that is required is (1) to make clear that students have gone through a substantial testing process, and (2) to show the grades they received. The main thing is to follow the instructions given in Book 2, no more, no less.

Here, as elsewhere, be specific: describe how a standard has been taught, how the mastery of it has been tested, and how the ability of students to teach it was demonstrated. Focus and conciseness are the keys here: the ability to translate a standard into a teachable subject and testable components within it. Remember to stick to the questions given. Be succinct and follow the instructions to the letter. Do not put a lot of supporting material into the document, since that will just make it harder for the reviewers to find the required materials.

There is a lot to recommend the option of establishing a methods course within the history department. Indeed, the absence of a methods course designed for history and social studies specifically is one principal reason why accreditation proposals fail. Often education schools have an all-purpose methods course for any field, and the NCSS is quite right in not accepting that as being sufficient. It is indeed in our interests as historians to build methods courses that are focused as much as possible upon our subject, though usually including the teaching of the other social sciences as well. Presenting a well-planned course of this kind to the review team will score high points.

At some colleges and universities a course in methods of teaching history and social sciences is situated in the history department and taught by members of the history faculty. The instructor can embed instruction in the ten standards and testing for their knowledge easily enough. Bringing in a good practitioner from the secondary schools has been a big success in a lot of places-students love studying with a bright, confident teacher who can lead them through just what they will do in class. Or, if the methods course is taught in the department of education, the history department can develop a course by which students review the major outlines of American and world history, learn aspects of the ten standards, and write lesson plans by which to teach them. Such a course would best combine review of basic historical problems with the writing of lesson plans-plans that address themes related to the standards. Donald Schwartz and Tim Keirn of California State University at Long Beach have built a pioneering Capstone course for students to take just before student teaching. Students fulfill the requirement for content knowledge from an exam written by the instructor of the course.

Creating a program that would lead to a successful review will, however, take at least a year, probably two. Don’t expect to be accredited on the basis of the first review document that is produced; indeed, only around a quarter of the institutions succeed the first time around. An institution will receive a detailed list of comments about what needs to be done to achieve accreditation. Make sure that the reviewers have given an explicit statement of the reasons why they did not approve your proposal together with specifics as to what needs to be done. While evaluators would like to see three years of data, less has sometimes been accepted. It is good to submit one year’s worth at first to get comments on how it has been done, and your institution will then make what is called a “rejoinder,” a response to recommendations by the reviewing board together with new data.

Members of the NCSS review board hold clinics and workshops to help departments learn how to write their review proposal. These events are held on the Wednesday just prior to the annual meeting of the NCSS (see its website and can be arranged elsewhere. Note that NCSS also invites history faculty to be trained to serve on the review board.

The review aside, there is much to be gained for a department to get involved in teacher preparation. As the vice president of the AHA’s Teaching Division has shown in an article in the AHA Perspectives (available online at history departments all over the country are developing partnerships with school districts to deepen the knowledge of teachers, help train student-teachers, and to link substantively what is going on in the different areas of history education. Helping students in the development of their careers in teaching has been quite fulfilling for college faculty and in some cases has influenced their own teaching significantly. In establishing a teaching methods course a history department can begin building outreach programs with a school district and get more closely in touch with the world where its students will be working. Deans and presidents also appreciate this kind of program because it provides opportunities for involvement in the community.

Advice from Charles Ford, Norfolk State University. Professor Ford offers this advice based upon his department’s experience of review by NCATE/NCSS:

The following are necessary steps in the passing of NCATE/NCSS scrutiny:

(1) Reports need to address the standards explicitly in the narrative. This kind of reporting may push you over the allotted page limits. Nevertheless, do not pay too much attention to the page limits; stating clearly what you do is more important than keeping to the exact number of specified pages. In addition, do not rely too heavily on the appendices to address standards; the narrative should do the key explanations with the appendices as supplemental. The appendices by themselves and without narrative explanation are not enough for compliance.

(2) Reports need to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of any secondary social studies program. Reports need to state explicitly in the narrative, not just in the appendices, the courses and course descriptions of required social science classes outside of history. They need to note specifically all relevant social science courses that fit with each one of the standards in the narrative, matching them with documentation in the appendices. Here reports avoid getting in the crossfire of a sterile century-old battle between educators over the merits of history as a separate subject in high schools as opposed to those of social studies.

(3) Reports have to prove that teacher candidates have mastered the standards. This means describing testing and classroom evidence in the narrative and tying that data to the standards. In reference to testing evidence, reports have to show evidence from individual classes. In other words, if Candidates X, Y, and Z received As on their analyses of an excerpt from Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (1900), then their grades on that paper assignment provides support for their department passing Standard 1.4, Individual Development and Identity. In addition, departmental assessment test questions need to be mapped to the appropriate standard; faculty need to do item analysis of candidate performance on these individual test questions mapped to the appropriate standard.

(4) Reports need to have the Praxis II social studies test scores of their department’s teacher candidates. If the reports do not have these scores, then your department will never pass this NCATE/NCSS inspection. If you do not have these scores, then track down the latest ISR (Institutional Screening Report) from ETS, a report which arrives every three years in October for schools with a relatively low number of candidates. If that fails, then contact your state’s department of education, local school districts which have hired your candidates, and/or the candidates themselves for these scores.

(5) Departmental assessment tests should reflect NCATE/NCSS standards and current course content. In addition, departments need to establish assessment tests for their graduate MAT programs that feature questions on both the social sciences and pedagogical practices.

(6) Everyone observing and teaching the candidates have to know their subjects. Thus reports need to include the resumes of all teachers educating candidates in the social sciences and pedagogical practices. That includes the vita of college faculty outside of history departments as well as of high school social studies teachers observing our student-teachers.

(7) Reviewers demand assurance that the cooperating faculty at local high schools are competent in the content knowledge of the social sciences. Reports need to show how schools assign cooperating faculty and how the candidates’ field experiences go beyond history to the other social sciences to include anthropology and civics, just to name a few disciplines.

Charles Ford

A Model Standard, By Kathleen Steeves, George Washington University

The grid that follows provides an example of a model standard. Since some courses apply to several standards, points may be repeated under more than one theme/standard. For example, aspects of a core history survey course can apply to each of the themes, “Time, Continuity and Change”, “Production, Distribution and Consumption,” and “Global Connections.” It is possible to repeat the information about such courses for each of the programmatic, test and performance evidence sections. There are also helpful guides on the National Council for the Social Studies website:, especially the one called Advice Concerning the Preparation of an Institution’s Social Studies Teacher Education Program Review.

Under each Standard is listed: “Student Expectations” and “Teacher Expectations”. It can be helpful to review those items because they will provide specific examples of what knowledge is expected. Within this list are items that specifically address history. You should determine how the courses you teach in your history major provide learning in each theme/standard area.


Theme/Standard 1.5: Individuals, Groups and Institutions:

“�possess the knowledge, capabilities, and dispositions �for the study of the interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.”

Programmatic Evidence
List courses that all students are required to take to fulfil their history major, a social science credential, or a disciplinary credential and that apply to a standard. Elective courses are not appropriate because you cannot guarantee that all students received that information.
For Example:History 101 and 102: Survey in World Civis required of all history majors. Within these courses, the standard is met by presentation, discussion and testing on the following topics:*Greek and Roman legal systems* Patterns of change in ancient Asian dynasties* Rise of merchant class in Europe, etc.History 300, Junior Seminar:Required of all history majors. Within this course, the standard is met by lecture, readings, or by presentation of an outside expert. [You could list the texts required or include a syllabus in an appendix. Point out specific topics that apply to each theme.]PS 101: Introduction to Government:Required of all students. The course focuses upon institutions and individual and group interaction with them.

ED 250 and ED 260:

All students in secondary history education must take these two courses, in which they prepare a lesson that addresses this standard.

In ED 260, they teach a lesson that addresses this standard.


Test Evidence
For each course mentioned as programmatic evidence, you must note in this category how that standard/theme is measured. What are your testing instruments? Be specific. Moreover, you must summarize the results of the tests in the courses in this section. You can do so by stating either the numbers of students or the proportion of them receiving each grade.
For Example: History 101 and 102:All students in the class take an essay exam that includes topics focused upon the standards or the themes. They also make a presentation that is to synthesize their knowledge on one or several topics. A major paper requires that students do a comparative analysis of two governments. The exams for the course require knowledge of seven major civilizations, their social and government structures.Of the 5 students in history 101 and 102 who are in the education program, all successfully completed the course. Three received As, and 2 received Bs.History 300:All students in this course were required to write and successfully defend an analytic paper that includes the topic related to the standard. [Give examples of paper assignments.]The 5 students who took this class received: 1 A, 2 B+s, 1 B, 1 B-.Education 250 and 260:Student lessons are evaluated by the course instructors; in schools by the cooperating teacher and also by the visiting university supervisor.Praxis II test:

Required of all secondary education students. Questions 7-10 refer to this standard/theme. The 5 students in secondary history all correctly answered questions 7-10.


Performance Evidence
You must state how students were assessed in teaching the standards or themes. Be specific as to what education course or courses they take and how they are supervised each by university and school personnel . Be specific about the results of performance evaluation of the student teacher.
For Example:Education 250 and 260:All 5 students received satisfactory evaluations on their lesson that addressed the standard/theme.Student lessons are evaluated by the course instructors, that is, by the cooperating teacher and the university supervisor. All 5 students received satisfactory evaluations on their lesson that addressed the standard/theme.Evaluation rubric is attached in Appendix A, p. 27. Cooperating teachers evaluated all student lessons on this theme at a 4 (1=failed to 5=exceptional). Evaluation rubric is attached, Appendix B.

To enable the Teaching Division and the AHA to further learn from experience, William Weber, the vice president of the division, would appreciate hearing from departments as they go through the review process.