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About National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

Social studies educators teach students the content knowledge, intellectual skills, and civic values necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy. The mission of National Council for the Social Studies is to provide leadership, service, and support for all social studies educators.

Founded in 1921, National Council for the Social Studies is the largest profesional association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. NCSS engages and supports educators in strengthening and advocating social studies. With members in all the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 69 foreign countries, NCSS serves as an umbrella organization for elementary, secondary, and college teachers of history, civics, geography, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and law-related education. The NCSS membership represents K-12 classroom teachers, college and university faculty members, curriculum designers and specialists, social studies supervisors, and leaders in the various disciplines that constitute the social studies.

Membership in National Council for the Social Studies is open to any person or institution interested in the social studies.

Membership Information

What is Social Studies?

Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.

In essence, social studies promotes knowledge of and involvement in civic affairs. And because civic issues--such as health care, crime, and foreign policy--are multidisciplinary in nature, understanding these issues and developing resolutions to them require multidisciplinary education. These characteristics are the key defining aspects of social studies.

Social Studies Standards

National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: A Framework for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

In 2010, NCSS published National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: A Framework for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. The NCSS National Curriculum Standards consists of ten themes incorporating fields of study that correspond with one or more relevant disciplines. The organization believes that effective social studies programs include experiences that provide for the study of:

  • Culture
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Individual Development and Identity
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Global Connections
  • Civic Ideals and Practices

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History

The result of a three year state-led collaborative effort, the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards was developed to serve two audiences: for states to upgrade their state social studies standards and for practitioners — local school districts, schools, teachers and curriculum writers — to strengthen their social studies programs. Its objectives are to: a) enhance the rigor of the social studies disciplines; b) build critical thinking, problem solving, and participatory skills to become engaged citizens; and c) align academic programs to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies. The C3 Framework t is designed to guide states in their efforts to upgrade their social studies standards and to inform the pedagogical approaches of social studies educators across the nation.

Both these documents are powerful tools to guide and strengthen social studies teaching and learning.  The national curriculum standards are a guide for identifying or updating content standards. The C3 Framework is not intended to prescribe the content necessary for a rigorous social studies program but is designed to guide states in their efforts to upgrade their social studies standards and to inform the pedagogical approaches of social studies educators across the nation.

NCSS Publications

NCSS publications reach a readership of more than 25,000 educators. The flagship, peer-reviewed publication of NCSS is Social Education. Elementary educators often choose to receive the peer-reviewed journal Social Studies and the Young Learner. For middle school teachers, NCSS publishes the peer-reviewed online magazine Middle Level Learning. Learn more at www.socialstudies.org/publications.

NCSS Annual Conference

At the NCSS Annual Conference, thousands of attendees learn from 400 presentations, receive classroom-ready lessons, network with colleagues, listen to keynote speakers who are leaders in their fields, and explore the Exhibit Hall with more than 150 exhibitors. Learn about this year's Annual Conference at www.socialstudies.org/conference.

NCSS Associated Groups

NCSS Associated groups are formal subgroups of NCSS that provide specialized services and professional development opporutnities to NCSS Members. The associated groups are College and University Faculty Assembly; Council of State Social Studies Specialists; National Social Studies Supervisors Association; International Assembly; and Social Science Education Consortium.

Learn more about NCSS Associated Groups

State, Local and Regional Councils

NCSS is affiliated with and supports more than 110 affiliated state, local, and regional councils which offer conferences and professional development opportunities,  and monitor state educational policies with regard to social studies.

See the full list of affiliated councils.

Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society

National Council for the Social Studies sponsors the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society. Rho Kappa is the only national organization for high school juniors and seniors that recognizes excellence in the field of social studies. Any accredited public or private high school can apply for a local chapter, through which individuals will be inducted into Rho Kappa Honor Society.

Learn more about Rho Kappa

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