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A Window of Opportunity

Over the next few weeks, states around our nation can join Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in submitting waivers to the requirements of the federal education law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). At the recent NCSS Annual Conference in Washington, DC, attendees were told about the new waiver policy and the role that social studies could play in it.

Before you can understand this important opportunity, you need to understand the waiver program. The U.S. Department of Education created the waiver program to address the fact that most states will not be able to meet the reading and math proficiency goals set by NCLB. A state government can apply for a waiver by submitting a written plan showing how it plans to work on improving instruction and student learning.(1) Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his staff have suggested that the social studies community may wish to participate in creating these waiver applications. This is the moment for you and other social studies teachers in your state to begin discussions (if you have not already done so) about the importance of the social studies curriculum and how it relates to state and national education policy. This is a great opportunity to meet with the social studies curriculum specialist in your state and establish a relationship that could be a long and fruitful one.(2) It’s a chance to emphasize to your state department of education the need to increase instructional time for social studies at all grade levels, and to include social studies subjects among those that are tested. You can also point out that the Common Core Standards link history and other social studies subjects to reading and writing skills, and show how these subjects are important for the development of student literacy.(3)

Whit W. Grace, Chairman, Government Relations Committee, NCSS and Mike Jehnson, Director, “Making Connections” (TAHG, Mississippi)


1. “Obama Administration Sets Rules for NCLB Waivers,” Education Week (September 22, 2011),
2. Find your social studies specialist by inquiring at your state’s department of education. Click on the map at
3. Reach the authors by e-mail at and respectively.

Maryland Social Studies Task Force Report

The Maryland Social Studies Task Force has released a report on social studies education in Maryland. Acknowledging the challenges faced by social studies over the past decade, including the unintended marginalization of social studies disciplines caused by NCLB, the social studies task force made nine recommendations in its report that are "intended to reverse social studies’ decline." Key recommendations include establishing standards governing instructional time; administering a statewide social studies assessment in elementary and middle school; increasing social studies course requirements for prospective teachers; and launching a campaign to gain public support for more and better social studies instruction.

Social Studies in the Era of No Child Left Behind

A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies

"A primary object...should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing...than...communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country."
--George Washington

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