Report on State of History Education Released!

Cover, STAR, 2010
Sun 22 2012

What role do your state’s history standards play in your teaching life? Do they help you figure out the units and topics to study in a year? Do they encourage you to teach students to investigate the past and debate its implications? Do they burden you with a list of names, dates, and places that seems endless and disconnected? Maybe they languish in a closet gathering dust?

Forty-nine states have history/social studies standards and their content, form, length, and level of detail can vary enormously from state to state. (Iowa is the exception with a “core” set of “essential concepts and skills” rather than standards.) has recently published a Report on the state of history education and it includes information about those diverse state standards as well as other state policies regarding the teaching of history, including mandatory assessments and initial teacher licensure requirements.

This second edition includes our original report released in 2010 and also documents:

  • changes that occurred in state policies regarding U.S. history between 2008 and 2010;
  • state policies regarding world history, and
  • state policies regarding end-of-course tests in history.

You can read the report to get the full story (or try the executive summary for a quick overview.) We imagine this report will be helpful to those who work at the state level, participants in any standards review and revision committee, and for tracking changes and constancies in states’ policies regarding history/social studies.

Some of our major findings include:

  1. Between the academic years of 2008 and 2010, 12 states and the District of Columbia adopted new history/social studies standards.
  2. Twenty-six states mandate testing in history/social studies. Of those states, 13 use some combination of constructed-response and multiple-choice questions, and the other 13 use only multiple-choice questions.
  3. World history receives less attention in states’ policies than U.S. history. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia require graduates to have taken a world history course—fewer than require a U.S. history course. Fifteen of the 26 states that mandate history/social studies testing include world history in that mandate, as contrasted with the 24 states that mandate American history content.

Our report is a treasure trove of data regarding states’ history standards and assessments. Look at the appendix to find websites for accessing each state’s standards, check out sample test questions from different states (p. 39) or compare how states address the causes of the Civil War in sample standards (pp 52–64). Or go directly to for a searchable database of state standards. Also find out about national history-related programs (pp 21, 37), including some that offer curriculum or professional development

Is your use of your state’s standards driven by their form or content or by the assessments your students must take in history/social studies? Find out how your state’s requirements compare to others, and consider what policies would be best for you and your students.

About the Author

Daisy Martin, Director of History Education at, recently co-authored Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms, published by Teachers College Press.