Main menu

NCSS Strategic Plan


In the fall of 2000, conducted a series of in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with representatives of various NCSS key constituencies to gain insight into professional issues and challenges as well as the perception of NCSS and its current structure. This provided a base of information for the strategic thinking sessions.

NCSS leaders engaged Tecker Consultants, L.L.C. to assist in developing this strategic planning model. NCSS sought to focus on (a) the identity of the organization and (b) the major issues it will need to address in the near and longer term future, and (c) what NCSS will need to consider from an organizational and structural perspective in its governance initiative. This strateic plan is organized based on a planning model organized into "Four Horizons" which helps associations to prioritize outcomes and execute strategy while ensuring the continued relevance of long-range direction over time.

The framework NCSS will use to monitor its ever-changing environment is built upon clarity about what will constitute both near term and long term success. Understanding what the organization is attempting to accomplish, no matter how much the environment and the external and internal influencers change'will be essential to governance?s ability to negotiate those shifts effectively.

Envisioned future. The 'Four Planning Horizons' framework consists of crafting a comprehensive strategic direction based on the balance between what doesn't change--the timeless principles of the association's core purpose and core values--and what the association seeks to become within a 10- to 30-year horizon--what would be possible beyond the restraints of the current environment. The 10- to 30-year horizon is characterized by the articulation of an envisioned future--a Big, Audacious Goal (BAG)--and a set of vivid descriptions--what it will be like to achieve the goal.

The NCSS strategic long-range plan describes a desired vision and what will be essential in achieving that vision. It is grounded in core ideology and driven by an envisioned future for NCSS members, stakeholders, and the association.

This planning model and the original strategic plan document was approved by the Board of Directors for approval in November 2001 and consists of: Core Ideology, Core Purpose and Core Values; Envisioned Future, Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) and Vivid Descriptions; Assumptions about the Relevant Future; and Goal Statements and Objectives. The 3- to 5-year strategic plan document (i.e., five goals and strategic objectives) will form the basis for the annual work plan for NCSS, including establishing priorities for staff and volunteer work groups. This document contains the goal statements and a set of objectives for each of the goal statements.

The board reviews this plan annually to assess NCSS progress toward the stated goals, and to make revisions the plan as necessary. The latest review was conducted in February 2008 . NCSS has adopted a philosophy of ongoing re-evaluation of the critical knowledge bases that form the framework of its world, including:

  • Sensitivity to member needs
  • Insight into the future environment of education and social studies
  • Understanding of the capacity and strategic position of the association, and
  • Effective analysis of the ethical implications of policy and program choices.

NCSS strategic long-range plan represents a compass the association will use to guide its work over the next 3 to 5 years. Each year of its life, the plan will be updated, based on experience or new circumstances or as new opportunities or challenges emerge.

Core Ideology

The Core Ideology clarifies what doesn't change for an organization in an environment of rapid and unpredictable change. It consists of Core Purpose and Core Values.

NCSS Core Purpose

The Core Purpose is a concise statement of the organization's reason for being. It is the essence of the organization, that which is true today, has been true, and will likely be true 10, 20, 30, or more years into the future.

To lead the community of social studies professionals in promoting a knowledgeable and engaged citizenry

NCSS Core Values

The Core Values are essential and enduring tenets of the organization, a set of timeless guiding principles that reflect what the organization stands for and are inherent in all decision making.

In NCSS we value:

  • Democratic principles and values: the very foundation of social studies
  • Diversity and Inclusiveness: The organization affirms cultural diversity, combats discrimination, and recognizes multiple perspectives
  • Global Interconnectedness: an understanding of the relationships between and among peoples and countries around the globe
  • Intellectual excellence: rigorous thought and inquiry
  • Open and reasoned civil discourse: an environment conducive to airing a variety of opinions and views in a respectful manner
  • Pursuit of Knowledge: the shared desire for continuous learning and improvement
  • Altruism and Commitment: compassionate, ethical, collaborative, and service-oriented citizens

10-30 Year Planning Horizon NCSS Envisioned Future

The Envisioned Future consists of a Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) as well as a set of Vivid Descriptions that describe what the conditions will be like having attained the Big, Audacious Goal.

NCSS BIG, Audacious Goal (BAG)

A Big, Audacious Goal (BAG) should be clear and compelling, bold and exciting, fall outside the current comfort zone, and be doable with heroic effort and marshaling of resources. It could take 10-30 years to accomplish.

  • Be the catalyst for creating engaged, effective citizens

Vivid Descriptions

Vivid Descriptions paint a picture and describe what the world will be like for a variety of stakeholders ' educators, students, citizens, etc., when the Big, Audacious Goal is achieved.

  • Social Studies is a recognized and well respected core subject.
  • Public policymakers look to NCSS for developing and maintaining a well-informed and engaged citizenry
  • Social Studies teachers are guided by research, standards and principles of powerful teaching and learning when preparing to teach effectively.
  • NCSS is the umbrella organization for all areas of social studies, and the disciplines that constitute social studies are respectful of each other and have joined forces to promote a united front under NCSS leadership.
  • Social Studies education across the United States is based on NCSS standards and scope and sequence.
  • Business and the community appreciate teachers and recognize their connection to advancing student achievement and prepare students for the work environment.
  • The United States enjoys a vibrant democracy as demonstrated by active citizen participation in the political process.
  • Every student has a qualified social studies teacher.
  • All teachers of social studies, regardless of subject matter or grade level, are NCSS members.
  • Social Studies educators have equal access to all the resources they need.
  • Teachers are role models for civic participation.
  • The international educational community looks to NCSS for research, knowledge and resources on teaching and learning.

5-10 Year Planning Horizon Assumptions About the Relevant Future

The purpose of building assumptions is to provide a framework for the strategic thinking process. How will the world of members and stakeholders be different? Such thinking about what could be and what is likely enables organizations to be more fluid and flexible and able to prepare for contingencies. Leaders should engage in consideration and review of relevant assumptions at least annually and adjust the priorities of the strategic plan as needed.


  1. Students in many communities will increasingly come from more racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse populations.
  2. In some areas of the country, what were once ethnic minority populations will increasingly constitute the majority population.
  3. As many current teachers retire, persons coming into teaching will be significantly younger and less experienced than the current teacher workforce, and there will be noticeable implications for education.
  4. Private schooling and home schooling will likely increase as education continues to take place in more varied settings.
  5. Students, facilitated by technology, will increasingly work in a variety of learning environments beyond the traditional classroom.
  6. In many communities, the teacher population will be less diverse than the student population.
  7. Aging baby boomers and their needs may increasingly compete with education for limited funds.
  8. A baby boom and/or increased immigration in coming years could yield more children to be educated than is currently projected.
  9. Some communities will experience increasing class sizes necessitating the use of all possible spaces for classroom use; and there will likely be a boom in building and renovations as well as manufactured housing.
  10. If vouchers, or a similar program, are implemented, that could significantly impact the public schools and populations served.
  11. Teachers will increasingly come from non-traditional backgrounds and settings to fill the shortage in certain areas.


  • Education will be in the forefront of the legislative agenda.
  • Teachers will be held more accountable for ensuring that students master subject material.
  • Emphasis on math and reading in assessments will likely diminish the resources designated for social studies as well as the value of, and time, allocated to teaching social studies.
  • States that eliminate their state social studies coordinator positions will likely diminish the role for social studies in the curriculum in those states.
  • In schools where social studies is not part of the mandatory assessment process, it could likely be less frequently taught, and not be taught at all at the elementary level.
  • In testing, subjects such as history, geography, and civics are more likely to be incorporated into standardized tests, while other social studies areas are not likely to be included.
  • There will increasingly be higher expectations for testing, and future teachers will be trained in skills and competencies relative to teaching for tests.
  • Many states are redefining their standards for teacher certification, making the standards more stringent.
  • There will likely be a shortage of teachers while the need grows in some communities for more and more teachers.
  • States will experience movement toward more alternative means for teacher preparation to alleviate the teacher shortage.
  • States that have stringent requirements regarding teachers only teaching subjects in which they have a major or minor will need to reconcile these requirements with the shift to more integration of subjects.
  • Information on RFPs for grants will likely continue to state that they will not fund social studies, while history or geography or a specific component of social studies will be funded.
  • Vouchers, or some form of subsidies for education, could be implemented.
  • Higher education will be required for teacher education, certification, and renewal.
  • Funding to address educational needs could come from non-traditional sources such as philanthropic entrepreneurs.

Business/Economic Climate

  • The movement for greater accountability for students, teachers, and schools will increase.
  • Teachers will be preparing students for a working environment characterized by frequent job changes.
  • The lack of job loyalty among teachers as well as the working population at large will be an important societal and workplace issue.
  • Schools in which students come having had their basic needs met for food, shelter, clothing, etc. will be very different from those that operate where such basic needs have not been met.
  • There will continue to be dialogue around the primary purpose of education, defining 'who' is the consumer of education, and debate around whether the goal is to 'provide good employees' or 'good citizens in a wider world.'
  • Business is moving toward wanting education to develop students with intellectual and learning competencies, and business will train workers on intricacies and requirements of jobs.
  • The use of vouchers, or a similar system, and the increase of charter schools will impact public school funding.
  • Corporate sponsorship within schools will significantly increase.
  • Business will more clearly articulate its expectations in terms of work skills and critical competency skills.
  • In some communities, segregation by income will likely increase.


  • The ways in which people communicate and interact with each other will dramatically change through use of technology.
  • Students of subsequent generations will multi-task more, have shorter attention spans, and expect more interactive learning opportunities.
  • Technology use and skills will be integrated across all subject areas.
  • Technology will increasingly provide learning innovations such as distance learning, cyber schools, and the use of hand-held devices.
  • Technology will be the common way to access education, information, and knowledge.
  • There will be a blurring of the disciplines and greater inter-disciplinary opportunities in education.
  • Students will learn the skills needed to use technology properly.
  • There will be significant strides made toward providing equal technology access for all students.
  • Teachers will know how to use and employ the latest technology applications to facilitate learning. * Social Studies will work with other groups to identify the future direction of technology and sciences.
  • Science, medical advances, and technology will continue to alter who we are teaching as inclusion has brought blind and deaf students and students with increasingly varied abilities into the traditional classroom.
  • There will be more competition for funding among educational venues such as classrooms and school buildings competing with cyber schools, home schools, and distance learning opportunities.
  • Wireless technology will provide greater access to technology as more powerful, smaller communications devices become mainstream. Communications devices/appliances will move with us, and perhaps even be integrated into our bodies.
  • Social Studies will likely have a major role to play in ethical dilemmas in the dialogue around context, control, censorship, and regulation of science.

Social Values/Politics

  • There will be persistent tension between individual rights and the common good.
  • There will likely be greater moral ambiguity as people in public schools embrace increasingly diverse perspectives and values.
  • Social opportunities and expectations will be different for subsequent generations that grow up on computers, technology, etc.
  • There will be a broad-based societal desire to ensure that every student will be fully educated.
  • The notion of 'choice' will accelerate, and more students will be able to attend any public school of their choice.

Emerging New Realities

  • There has been a surge in patriotism across the United States post 9/11/01, and we will likely see a more aware, interested, and engaged citizenry.
  • U.S. school districts will increasingly need to deal with policies and guidelines for dealing with a host of 'What if'.?? scenarios around protecting our homeland from terrorism.
  • There will be greater interest in inter-disciplinary teaching; social studies teachers will be sought out for their particular knowledge, information, and materials relevant to world events.
  • There will be a shift from national to global interest in a broad array of social studies related areas such as geography, political science, world events, economics, religion, and human rights practices.
  • There will be increased interest in skills such as critical thinking as a myriad of questions are pondered relevant to world events.
  • Social studies experts will be sought as media information sources and resources.
  • Issues such as tolerance, privacy, security, diversity, the common good, and media accuracy will be prominent in national news debates, classrooms, and public gatherings.
  • There will likely be a greater interest in 20th century history and lessons learned from previous wars that could be pertinent to the current situation.

NCSS and its members will have unique opportunities for enhanced visibility as a source and resource for credible information both internally, with members seeking information, materials, and tools to use in the classroom, and externally, with media, public platforms, government officials, and others seeking particular expertise.

  • Planning for critical uncertainties will become increasingly more important as events unfold that reach beyond the expected or anticipated.


There was a series of mega or critical issues identified in the strategic thinking sessions which NCSS leadership will need to further discuss and around which decisions may need to be made that will likely impact the strategic direction of the organization.

  • Which term--social studies or social science--most accurately reflects the inclusiveness of the disciplines and can best be marketed to internal and external constituencies?
  • Will social studies survive as a distinct school subject or be replaced by history and individual social sciences?
  • How can NCSS identify the un- and under-represented constituent groups such as elementary and middle school teachers, supervisors, teachers of color, urban and rural educators, etc. and make them feel part of NCSS and offer things that these particular constituent groups value, want, and need?
  • The terms citizenship and democracy are used synonymously in the United States, but this is not necessarily the case worldwide. What does this mean to the influx of immigrants, as well as new generations that may not have a respect for, or propensity to support, democracy?
  • Citizenship Education'how much of it is going on' It may be desirable to benchmark and monitor what is going on at various grade levels in a variety of educational settings.
  • Who' is the real consumer of education' Is the goal of education to provide good employees or to be good world citizens' Can these both be achieved rather than being mutually exclusive'
  • The rise of the multi-national corporation has impacted education, and it has yet to be determined what opportunities this presents for social studies education.
  • Will NCSS seek to create engaged and effective citizens worldwide and adopt a more global perspective or retain a national U.S. focus? What is a common, universal definition of social studies citizenship education that can be embraced by multi-cultural constituencies' Social Studies has been described as 'an integrated study of the Social Sciences and humanities to promote civic competency.' What does it really mean to be a 'good citizen'? In a sense, aren't all disciplines related to citizenship education' What is the role of social studies in addressing the human condition'
  • Strategic alliances will continually be important in the future. With which groups, organizations, and constituencies should NCSS seek or bolster alliances?
  • With the emphasis on testing for literacy and numeracy at the elementary school level, social studies has to some degree been marginalized at this level. Elementary school teachers often feel that they 'also teach social studies' in addition to a variety of other subjects and may need a different way to interact with NCSS that works for their needs.
  • Will there be an increased or diminished need in the future for an 'organized workforce'' What will be the future role of unions'
  • Educators have a need to feel 'valued' for their contributions to society. How do you ensure that social studies educators are valued for their unique contributions to an educated and engaged citizenry?
  • What impact will the shortage of teachers and the increased hiring of non-certified social studies teachers have on NCSS?
  • How will the House of Delegates and state organizations play a role in the governance of this organization' How can we enhance the responsibilities and function of operational committees'
  • What research is needed to move social studies education forward' How can the effectiveness of social studies be assessed'

3-5 Year Planning Horizon- NCSS Goal Statements, Objectives, & Strategies

Goal A: Education/Knowledge Goal:

NCSS will be the leading resource for professionals who seek social studies knowledge, collegiality, and learning opportunities throughout their careers.


A1. Improve and increase the variety of information and materials for effective social studies instruction

A2. Increase opportunities for social studies professionals to strengthen theoretical, pedagogical, and content knowledge

A3. Increase research to enhance the effectiveness of social studies teaching

A4. Increase public and private funding of programs to address social studies needs

Goal B: Advocacy/Visibility Goal:

Educators and public policymakers will regard NCSS and its members as shapers of educational policies impacting social studies.


B1. Increase members? knowledge and understanding of educational policies and the political and regulatory process

B2. Increase legislative, regulatory, business, media, and public awareness of 'citizenship education' issues

B3. Increase the visibility, credibility, involvement, and influence of NCSS and its members among public policymakers at the local, state, and national levels

B4. Strengthen collaborative relationships with other educational organizations on issues of mutual concern

B5. Strengthen links and interactions with the private and public sector

Goal C: Membership Goal

NCSS will embrace and unite professionals representing all grade levels and disciplines of social studies education.


C1. Increase joint membership among the local, state, and regional councils and NCSS

C2. Increase the membership participation and value derived from NCSS for currently un- or under-represented constituencies

C3. Increase the retention rate for all membership categories

C4. Expand the number and reach of NCSS advocates in every educational environment

C5. Expand the sharing of best/model practices among NCSS members

C6. Increase collaboration with each of the social studies discipline organizations

Goal D: Citizenry Goal

Social Studies knowledge and skills will be central to sound decision making and engagement in civic life


D1. Increase collaboration with the business community on common goals to create an educated and engaged citizenry, informed consumers, and skilled workers

D2. Increase media awareness and public perception of the importance of citizenship education

D3. Increase cooperation with other disciplines and groups to promote an educated and engaged citizenry

D4. Increase the use of NCSS materials regarding citizenship education and standards in pre-service content and methods courses

D5. Increase the use of NCSS citizenship materials in district in-service programs

D6. Increase Best Practices based on research

Goal E: Social Studies Excellence Goal:

Social Studies, based on NCSS policies and standards, will be recognized as a core subject.


E1. Broaden public understanding and support of the nature and importance of social studies

E2. Strengthen NCSS outreach to local, state, and regional affiliates

E3. Increase lobbying efforts at the local, state, and national levels to promote the adoption of NCSS social studies standards

E4. Increase awareness of NCSS social studies standards

E5. Increase the use and quality of assessment based on the NCSS standards, curriculum, and instruction

E6. Strengthen members' skills for interdisciplinary teaching

Printer Friendly and PDF
Stay Connected with NCSS:   Follow NCSSNetwork on TwitterFaceBook.png rss_0.gif Visit us on Pinterest