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National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers

Revised 2017

The 2017 revision of the National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers became operational on January 1, 2018. This date also signifies the start of a two year sunset period for the 2004 standards, which will expire on December 31, 2019. All programs seeking national recognition during the Spring 2020 cycle and beyond will be required to submit using the standards found in the 2017 NCSS National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers. Because at least two applications of each assessment are required for national recognition, the Spring 2019 cycle is the earliest that programs would be able to submit using the revised 2017 standards.

The 2004 version of the NCSS Program Standards for the Initial Preparation of Social Studies Teachers that has been used for CAEP social studies program review is available here

 If you have any questions about the standards or the transition, please contact NCSS CAEP Program Review Coordinator Brandie Benton. 


 (Approved by CAEP SPA Standards Review Committee April, 2017)


The National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers describe and explain the national standards for social studies teacher education created by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). These standards were approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in March, 2016. This document consists of two sections: (1) an introduction, which contains, in addition to this overview, information about the background and contexts in which the standards were developed, a description of the audiences to which the standards are addressed, and the general framework that guided the construction of the standards; and (2) the standards themselves with a supporting rationale. The standards outline the social studies content, pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed in order to prepare ambitious social studies teachers.


For several decades, the National Council for the Social Studies has published standards for the preparation of social studies teachers. The last set of standards was released in 2002. Whereas earlier versions focused on prescribing programmatic components (e.g., coursework), the 1997 and 2002 standards represented a shift in emphasis. The twenty standards articulated in the 2002 edition focused the efforts of social studies teacher education on the ability of candidates to demonstrate subject matter knowledge and perform professionally. The shift was predicated on trends in 2002 that guided conversations around social studies and teacher preparation, such as the national move toward greater accountability for schools, teachers, and teacher education programs, efforts by state teacher licensure offices, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC), the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and other subject matter professional teacher associations. Most notably, the 2002 standards were influenced by the 1994 NCSS document, Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, which described what NCSS expected pre-K-12 learners should know and be able to do through ten thematic standards (NCSS, 1994).

While the 2016 committee continued the efforts of previous committees, the five standards and twenty-one elements found in this document are also responsive to the contemporary demands placed upon social studies teacher preparation programs. Although many of the trends that were emerging in 2002, such as InTASC, continue to influence the preparation of teachers, the most palpable change is the more critical stance that the public has adopted toward teacher education. The last decade has featured a steady stream of blistering critiques from government agencies, education advocacy groups, and the media lamenting the quality of teacher preparation. The persistent framing of teacher preparation as a “problem” has led to efforts to further regulate the curriculum of teacher education, increase the surveillance of programs through public accountability, introduce new content, dispositional, and performance assessments, and create new licensure routes that bypass traditional preparation pathways. As various institutions, groups, and individuals struggle over the power to determine quality teacher preparation, each successive wave of reform influences not just the structural characteristics of teacher education, but also the range of norms, values, and ideas possible within teacher education and about social studies education.

Within this milieu, the NCSS National Standards for the Preparation of Social Studies Teachers makes a claim for the professionalization of the field of social studies teacher education by outlining the characteristics of quality preparation. In doing so, this document features explicit and implicit declarations about the purposes of social studies education in a democratic society and the kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for teachers to accomplish these purposes.

What binds purpose, preparation, and practice together in this document is the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, released in 2013 (NCSS, 2013). The C3 Framework is a set of interlocking and mutually reinforcing dimensions of practice that focus on the intersection of inquiry, ideas, and learners. As a collaborative effort that began in 2010, the C3 Framework was built on the following shared principles: (1) social studies prepares the nation’s young people for college, careers, and civic life; (2) inquiry is at the heart of social studies; (3) social studies involves interdisciplinary applications; (4) social studies is composed of deep and enduring understandings, concepts, and skills from the disciplines; and (5) social studies emphasizes skills and practices for democratic decision-making.

The four dimensions of the Inquiry Arc in the C3 Framework center on the use of questions to spark curiosity, guide instruction, and deepen investigations, enabling students to acquire rigorous content, and to develop their knowledge and ideas in real-world settings in order to become active and engaged citizens in the twenty-first century. As the statement on what meaningful and powerful social studies instruction ought to look like, the C3 Framework served for the 2016 committee as the milestone for the kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions social studies teacher preparation programs are required to cultivate. Each standard outlined in this document is framed by the ethos of the C3 Framework—to enhance the rigor of social studies education by building the critical thinking, problem solving, and participatory skills that enable students to become informed citizens.

Download Full Standards Document

 (Approved by CAEP SPA Standards Review Committee April, 2017)


NCSS Task Force on Teacher Education Standards

Chair: Alexander Cuenca, Indiana University;
Brandie Benton, Henderson State University;
Tony Castro, University of Missouri;
Tina Heafner, University of North Carolina-Charlotte;
Andy Hostetler, Vanderbilt University;
Emma Thacker, James Madison University

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