Social Studies in Our Nation's Elementary and Middle Schools: A National Random Survey of Social Studies Teachers' Professional Opinions, Values, and Classroom Practices

James S. Leming, Lucien Ellington, and Mark Schug
Center for Survey Research and Analysis, University of Connecticut
May 2006

We know where social studies "went wrong" (see here), and we have a good sense for the generally miserable quality of state standards for teaching history (see here and here). But what do social studies teachers themselves have to say about the subject they teach? As it turns out, quite a lot. That is what three members of the Contrarian Project--a group of longstanding National Council of Social Studies members concerned about the organization's anti-content leanings and PC approach to the subject--found out in this first-of-its-kind survey of 1,051 second-, fifth-, and eighth-grade social studies teachers across the country. The Contrarians examined teachers' views on the quality of their textbooks (favorable-just 6 percent said their textbooks were "poor") and how important social studies is in their schools (not very-most teachers rank it far behind math and reading in importance and well below science). Interestingly, a strong majority (74 percent) says that passage of NCLB hasn't reduced the amount of time they spend teaching the subject--though that time was short to begin with. Among the most disconcerting findings: 65 percent of social studies teachers took fewer than 10 courses in the field as undergraduates. And they're aware of the problems this creates for them. When asked to choose what would improve them most as teachers, 66 percent said gaining a better understanding of the subject material. Social studies may not be making the grade, but many teachers are aware of their own shortcomings and want to improve. The next step is doing it. You may request copies of the report by emailing leming@svsu.edu.

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