Experts, Educators Point to Need to Increase
Focus on Social Studies
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 27, 2012) – Responding to data showing an acute narrowing of the curriculum and to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) requirement for the teaching of high quality informational texts, Common Core (CC) today announced that it is developing a series of K-8 curriculum maps in history and geography. These new, CCSSaligned curriculum maps will draw their content from the best state social studies standards in the nation.
Support for the “Common Core Curriculum Maps in History and Geography” is being provided by the Louis Calder Foundation and by proceeds from CC’s Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts. Common Core’s K-12 English Language Arts Curriculum Maps, the first all-new curriculum tool created which is aligned to the CCSS, currently have more than 7000 users. CC’s new history and geography maps will be a companion to the ELA maps.
“These maps will be based on the best existing state social studies standards, and they will address the new Common Core State Standards,” said Lynne Munson, Common Core President and Executive Director. “They will be a guide that elementary and middle school teachers can use to build their students’ knowledge in history and geography as they address or reinforce standards.”
The announcement of Common Core’s history and geography maps follows a March 15 Common Core forum — Truant from School: History, Science, and Art — where experts discussed the importance of expanding the need to expand the current instructional focus beyond reading and math.
“There is no such thing as doing the nuts and bolts of reading in kindergarten through fifth grade without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts. Period,” said David Coleman, CEO of Student Achievement Partners and a lead writer of the CCSS. “It is false. It is a fiction. And that is why NAEP scores in early grades can improve slightly but collapse as students grow older. Because it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text.”
“Social Studies classes, especially in elementary schools, have been reduced or eliminated,” said Lewis Huffman, the Education Associate for Social Studies for the South Carolina Department of Education. In South Carolina “a couple of years ago we were talking about the possibility of eliminating social studies assessments. Within a week, I had teachers calling me, telling me that their school administrators were already telling them ‘you don’t have to teach as much social studies’ or ‘you maybe don’t have to teach social studies at all.’”
As part of this renewed focus on history and geography, panelists also focused on the results of a nationwide survey of schoolteachers that was conducted for Common Core by FDR Group.
The survey was sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers. Initial findings from the survey were publicly released on December 8, 2011.
“It’s sad to me that the insistence that the Core Standards have equal balance between information and literature in the early grades, and that we demand literacy equally in history and the social studies and the sciences, is seen by some as an attack on literature,” Coleman said. “We see it instead as a celebration of the same idea that in all these disciplines there is an emphasis on excellence, complexity, and evidence from text... There is no greater threat to literary study in this country than false imitations of literature which do not deserve to be read.” “Everyone agrees that history, science, art, and other core subjects deserve their own time in the school day. And that the real travesty is that in too many cases some of these subjects are being set aside entirely—or put off until the very end of the school year after testing is over,” Munson said. “But we’d also like to see teachers using the ELA block to deepen students knowledge of these subjects—mostly by focusing the teaching of reading, writing, and communicating on high-quality informational texts. How can schools keep the balance right—especially in the elementary grades—where one teacher controls the entire school day and where we now know that narrowing is most acute?” CC is undertaking is creating CCSS-based curriculum maps in history and geography to try to help teachers, schools, and districts get the balance right.
Established in 2007, Common Core is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization formed to promote content-rich liberal arts education in America’s K–12 schools. Common Core believes that a child who graduates from high school without an understanding of culture, the arts, history, literature, civics, and language has in fact been left behind. To improve education in America, Common Core creates curriculum tools and also promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Common Core is not affiliated with the Common Core State Standards.
February 20 • In this Education Week webinar Lynne Munson talks about how the arts can play a powerful role in CCSS implementation. To register for the archived webinar, sign in here. Or view Lynne’s PowerPoint where she unveils high school-level TDQs comparing two works of art.
February 11 • This morning on Rick Hess’s Straight Up blog is a “thoughtful conversation” he had with Student Achievement Partners Founding Member Jason Zimba on CCSS, math in particular. Lynne Munson commented on the interview, and her views also can be read in today’s Common Core blog