Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies-Foreword

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Curriculum Standards Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Thematic Strands

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In 1992, the Board of Directors of the National Council for the Social Studies created a Task Force on Standards for Social Studies in order to ensure that, in the "era of standards," an integrated social science, behavioral science, and humanities approach for achieving academic and civic competence was available to guide social studies decisionmakers in K-12 schools in the United States.

This document, the product of that task force, contains a set of curriculum standards to guide social studies curricula, teaching, learning tasks, and assessment. These standards are recommended for use in assessing the quality and extent of social studies curricula and student achievement, including the long-term retention and maintenance of targeted content, skills, attitudes, and perspectives aligned with these standards. They also can be used as a template against which existing curricula as well as proposed curricula can be analyzed and assessed.

These standards do not represent a set of mandated outcomes or establish a national curriculum for the social studies. Rather, they should be used as guides and criteria to establish integrated state, district, school, department, and classroom curriculum plans to guide instruction, learning, and assessment. Except for clustering the standards into early grades, middle grades, and high school sets, no scope and sequence that must be followed or subject matter content that must be taught are listed. Decisions such as scope, specific content, and sequence are in the hands of those who are seeking to improve their social studies curricula to increase the quality of their students' social studies knowledge and skills. These state and local decisions will augment and enhance the framework these national standards provide.

These standards were developed and organized in full collaboration with social studies educators in the field, scholars in the academic disciplines, and the general public. Thousands of copies were distributed by mail; at workshops on the state, regional, and national levels; and through direct contact with thousands of teachers, content specialists, teacher educators, curriculum specialists, and supervisors as well as members of the general public and other educational organizations. Major revisions were made because of the valuable input of these individuals and groups. Both the standards and this document are clearer, stronger, and more practical as a result of the process that was followed and the feedback that was received. In a very real sense, both are the product of social studies educators, mostly classroom teachers, collaborating to improve and enhance, not just reform, social studies education. The members of the task force and the Officers and Board of the National Council for the Social Studies thank all of those who contributed during this constructive, consensus-building process.

Educators on all levels, including pre-service and in-service teacher educators, attempting to develop curriculum to achieve desired results regarding student knowledge, skills, attitudes, and perspectives, will find these standards useful because they suggest priorities, a set of fundamental themes, and student performance expectations that are essential to a sound social studies curriculum.

A social studies perspective is academically sound, multidisciplinary, and integrative. The leadership of the social studies profession envisions these standards to serve as a framework within which educators and content experts in the separate social sciences, behavioral sciences, and humanities should feel comfortable. We perceive these standards to be inclusionary rather than exclusionary of these disciplines. Social studies educators can certainly augment and enhance this framework by drawing key concepts, content, and methods of inquiry from all the individual disciplines. To be more empowering, these should be incorporated into the curriculum, instructional activities, and assessment in an integrative rather than single-discipline manner.

These standards provide a solid foundation upon which major reform of what goes on in schools can be based. In that way, we can give our young people a solid integrated academic background for living in both today's and tomorrow's worlds. Given that the focus of the social studies includes civic competence, the expectation is that quality implementation of these standards will improve the quality of each student's life both as an individual and as a member of the many social communities within which each lives.

Finally, implementation of these standards will require a cooperative effort and commitment. Political leaders and school boards with public support will need to provide adequate resources, incentives, and school settings for teachers and students. Teachers will have the ultimate responsibility for implementing the standards within the context of their local settings and student populations. The task-the challenge-is to realize that to prepare individuals and citizens for tomorrow's world requires a vision of the social studies and of social studies education that can make a qualitative difference in students' thinking and acting and the implementation of a curriculum framework aligned with what they need. This document reflects such a vision and provides such a framework.

Robert J. Stahl President, 1994?95 National Council for the Social Studies

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