Today’s Social Studies…Creating Effective Citizens.
That’s what we do, and our task is essential to maintaining an effective democracy. However, not everyone understands this. When this message is understood, students will benefit, schools will have greater support, and social studies teachers and other educators will find their job more rewarding.
There’s no group better suited to be advocates for the social studies profession nor better equipped to communicate the importance of social studies education than NCSS. NCSS’s greatest resources in creating greater awareness of the importance of social studies education are our members and our councils. YOU have the best understanding of social studies; YOU are in every corner of the United States, and YOU can reach out to people throughout the country.
In this Tool Kit, we have outlined our objectives for the advocacy campaign and numerous sample materials you can use to promote social studies education. An awareness campaign, such as this one, works best with a grassroots approach. Using this kit, you can influence key audiences locally. A partnership between the national office and local affiliates is the most effective way to deliver our important message.
There are two ways you can help communicate for social studies:
- Become involved in this campaign; and
- Practice solid public relations each day of your professional career.
Throughout the kit, you will find specific ideas on how you can become involved marked with the symbol . All have proven effective in schools around the country.
Working together, we can create greater awareness of the important work each NCSS member does every day. We can explain to America that Today’s Social Studies Creates Effective Citizens.
##Table of Contents
- Learn the Basics: Understanding the Campaign
- Public Relations 101
- Advocacy Planning: Your 10-Step Plan
- The Four Best School Advocacy Ideas
- Reach Out! Influence Students, Parents, Teachers, Board Members, and Others
- Media Matters: News Releases, Op-Eds, and
- Public Service Announcements
- Building your own Resource Collection
Learn the Basics: Understanding Advocacy
Our goal is to create awareness of the fact that social studies teaches students to be effective citizens.
To reach our goal, members must actively work to communicate this message:
Today’s Social Studies… Creating Effective Citizens
Today’s Social Studies
Too many people equate social studies to what they remember from their school days—no matter how long it has been since they were in school. We need to communicate that social studies is changing to meet the challenges of today’s world. It is not enough for students to memorize dates or locations on a map. Today’s social studies provides students with the knowledge, critical thinking skills and experiences that will allow them to grow into effective citizens.
NCSS defines social studies as “the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.” That definition should be the foundation for this campaign.
It’s essential that everyone involved in this advocacy effort adapts this view of social studies to their message. Because public policy issues—such as health insurance, immigration, the global economy, and foreign policy—are multidisciplinary in nature, understanding these issues and developing solutions to them require an effective multidisciplinary preK-12 education in social studies.
Creating Effective Citizens
Recently, there has been much attention given to the importance of some other subjects, including mathematics, science and reading. Many policymakers have forgotten the importance of a social studies education. Social Studies prepares people to take their place as effective, participating members of our democracy. That’s the message we need to deliver: social studies creates effective citizens.
Whether it is in parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights, speeches to civic groups, or talks with other educators, use this theme frequently in your communications. A key element in any advocacy effort is delivering the central message over and over again.
Develop a “business card” to distribute to parents at the start of the school year. Head the card with the theme, Today’s Social Studies… Creating Effective Citizens. Then include ways parents can support their children's social studies education and/or ways to contact you. If you have a classroom website, you can also include the theme there.
National/Affiliated Council/Member Partnership
There are many people we are trying to reach with our message— at the national, state and local levels. And while NCSS does not have the treasury to purchase full-page ads in the daily newspaper in every state capital each month, we do have a wonderful resource—25,000 members. To succeed, we must impact attitudes at all three levels.
The national office will assume the major responsibility in working with other national education associations and governmental groups. The national office will provide materials, such as this Tool Kit, that members will be able to easily adapt and use locally. Other information will be shared on the NCSS web site and through publications.
Local, state, and regional councils can implement advocacy efforts to impact local legislators, news media, school board members, central office administrators, parents, students and others through their members.
Councils could run a short column in each issue of their member newsletters explaining why they should become advocates for their profession and how to do so.
Members can reach their local legislators, news media, school board members, central office administrators, parents, students, and others. If each of our 25,000 members will take just five minutes a month or accomplish one major PR activity a year in support of this social studies education, think of the effect that could have.
One key to successful public relations is to focus on delivering your message to the most important audiences. NCSS members are essential to delivering our social studies advocacy message to others. Therefore, in order to be most effective, NCSS will focus its efforts on its members, as well as local, state, and federal policy makers, and the news media.
Find another social studies educator, who may or may not be an NCSS member, and discuss this public relations advocacy effort. Urge that person to become involved. He or she may also see the value of NCSS membership. Share your public relations advocacy effort through your council’s newsletter.
Advocacy and public relations must be viewed as an ongoing project. In fact, NCSS members should see “promoting the importance of social studies education” as a career-long professional commitment.
Public Relations 101
The Basic Concepts
- Messages about social studies are being delivered all the time—at youth sporting events, school functions, in the supermarket checkout line and at other community gathering places and events.
- Communicate accurate, positive messages about social studies in your everyday interactions with people, so that they will spread similar ideas.
In addition to the NCSS web site, those who want to learn more about school public relations can contact the National School Public Relations Association, the nation’s leader in education communication. NSPRA’s web address is www.nspra.org. NSPRA also has state chapters that could provide local assistance and information for NCSS members and state councils.
The point of any public relations effort is to shape someone’s or some group’s attitudes regarding your organization or project.
Pat Jackson, a highly-respected PR counselor in New Hampshire, defines public relations as building relationships that change attitudes to bring about desired behaviors.
Our task is to create an accurate understanding of the value of social studies education and what people can do to help social studies educators teach students the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective citizens.
Just as NCSS has identified its members, national legislators, other national education organizations, and the news media as its most important audiences, your grass roots efforts must also select target audiences.
Selecting a few groups for your communication effort is called targeting. Targeting audiences does not mean that you will stop communicating with everyone else. It means that special attention will be given to the targeted audience. Sometimes a target audience will be very large, and you may not have the resources to communicate efficiently with all parties in that audience. So you look for segments (super targets) of that audience that influence the attitudes of others.
For example, if social studies educators want to eliminate a burdensome state requirement that is actually harming education, the State Legislature is likely to be a target audience. You would also communicate with parents, the news media, school board members, etc. since they may communicate with legislators. However, you might super target the Education Committee in the State Legislature since that group is likely to make recommendations on the requirement.
Think about the additional audiences in your community or state that need a better understanding of social studies education. Bring together a small group of colleagues and simply brainstorm a list of key audiences. Divide that list into internal audiences—those closest to the school—and external audiences. Prioritize this list so that you have only a few that can receive adequate attention.
Keep in mind that there are two categories of audiences to consider in a public relations campaign—primary and secondary. Primary audiences are those you hope will take the action. Secondary audiences are those that can influence the primary audience.
For example, if you hope the school board will take an action, the school board members compose the primary audience. The superintendent and key advisers compose the secondary audiences.
Advocacy Planning: Your 10-Step Plan
There are many approaches to advocacy planning, but here is a 10-step process that will help assure success. A council or group of local teachers who want to move forward on this campaign should take the time to tailor this plan accordingly.
10 Steps to Your Advocacy Plan
- Identify an Advocacy Challenge or Opportunity.
- Determine the Key Audiences.
- Find Out What Those Audiences Currently Know or Perceive.
- Determine How Each Audience Receives Its Information.
- Establish Measurable Objectives for Each Audience.
- Define Message Points for Each Audience.
- Determine the Communication Activities To Deliver Those Messages.
- Decide What Resources Are Necessary To Complete Each Activity.
- Establish a Timeline and Responsible Party for Each Activity.
- Evaluate Whether You Have Reached Your Objectives.
How it looks for Social Studies...
This sample plan will guide you through completing the 10-step process. The most important step is number six; where you determine the specific messages you want to share. Remember: message points should be clear and few.
- Advocacy Challenge: To convince the school board to provide adequate time for social studies instruction and professional development.
- Key Audiences:
- School Board Members (primary)
- People who support the school board members (secondary)
- School staff (secondary)
- Other elected leaders (secondary)
- State Legislature, Congress and the Media
- Determine What They Know
- Read past Board meeting minutes
- Review past election materials for comments on social studies
- Read newspaper coverage of Board meetings
- Hold individual interviews with Board members
- Determine How They Receive Their Information
- Interviews (based on what is discovered, new audiences may be added. For example, if members of the Board indicate that they only listen to recommendations from the superintendent then he/she is added to your audience list.)
- E-mail or regular mail.
- Measurable Objectives
- Each Board member will be given a copy of NCSS's curriculum standard strands and performance expectations.
- An article on the value of social studies will be published in the state school board association journal.
- Eighty percent of the Board will attend a seminar conducted by local social studies educators.
- Eighty percent of the Board will attend a social studies class in a local school.
- Bring the state social studies specialist to meet with the school board.
- Message Points
- Social studies education is more important than ever.
- Social studies education creates effective citizens.
- Social studies holds our society together.
- Communication Activities
- Prepare a cover letter and send a copy of the NCSS curriculum standard strands and performance expectations.
- Make a follow up phone call to assure it was received.
- Submit an article to the state school boards association.
- Deliver an invitation (written or verbal) to the conference.
- Develop a plan with the schools to have board members observe a social studies classroom.
- Deliver an invitation (written or verbal) to participate in the observation.
- Time to compose and disseminate the letters.
- Indicate completion time for each activity.
- Is article published?
- Do they express an interest in the NCSS curriculum standards?
- Do they go on the observation?
- The vote.
The Four Best School Advocacy Ideas
1. Key Communicators
Any area--state or community--has a group of opinion leaders, who are asked questions about any item of interest in that area whether it's about the price of gasoline or the value of social studies education. These opinion leaders are likely to answer those questions, but one wonders whether they are prepared to deliver an accurate message about social studies.
Keep in mind that opinion leaders are not always what might be called the "most important people" in a community. They may be the president of the bank or the mayor; however, they may also be a soccer coach or others actively involved in your community. Opinion leaders (Key Communicators) are determined by how many people they influence--they have people power, not necessarily position power.
Try these steps to make opinion leaders work for you!
- Pull together a small group of colleagues and brainstorm the names of opinion leaders in your area. Start with a manageable number of people; you can always add more.
- Send a letter to those individuals, inviting them to an initial meeting of your Key Communicator group. Follow up with a phone call to encourage their participation.
- At the meeting indicate that you believe they are leaders in your area, that they communicate with many other people, and that you hope to gain their understanding of the importance of social studies education so they can communicate about it. Indicate that the more citizens know about social studies education, the more they can support local education. The bottom line is that students will benefit.
- Then, ask whether they have any questions about social studies, and distribute any appropriate handout materials. Urge them to share this information, and ask them to contact you with any questions they may have during the year.
You may want to create a quarterly e-mail for your Key Communicators to keep in touch with them. If possible, have an annual meeting to update these people and keep in touch.
Some schools and school districts have Key Communicators. If your district does, seek the opportunity to communicate with that group regarding social studies.
2. See for Yourself Programs
There's no better way to shape attitudes than to give people the chance to see things for themselves. This is interpersonal communication at its most effective. This is especially important in overcoming the attitude that social studies education is what it was 30 years ago when today's adults were in school.
A Social Studies Student for a Day program could be an effective “See for Yourself” activity for this campaign. Consider these steps:
- Brainstorm the names of key leaders in your state or community. Develop a short list. Then develop a list of schools where social studies education is effective, and match each leader to a school. Make sure to explain the program to principals or other school administrators and obtain support.
- Have someone from the school contact the leader and invite him or her to spend a day at the school as a student in various social studies classes. Explain that you believe social studies education is essential in creating effective citizens and you would like the leader to have a first hand opportunity to see what is happening in today's social studies classroom.
- At the end of the day, set aside some time to sit down with the leader and respond to any questions he or she may have. Also, offer some materials on social studies.
Keep in touch with that leader, whether it's inviting him or her to a school awards assembly, having lunch together, or sending an occasional letter.
Some educators who use Student for a Day programs, make sure that a test is being given by the students to the visitors on the day the leader attends class. Consider that to show first hand what a student is expected to learn. Or bring in a leader at a time when students are reporting on extensive projects such as History Day, are involved in a We the People competition, a mock trial or an effective class simulation accompanied by relevant debriefings to show student learning.
3. What's Right with Social Studies
All of us have opportunities almost every day to promote social studies education. Since we are recognized as educators, people are likely to ask us questions about schools and social studies in the supermarket checkout line, at the new youth recreation center, at the gym or spa, at a sporting event, at school functions, at churches, mosques, synagogues, etc. Each question is an opportunity to build greater awareness of the importance of social studies education and our successes. The concern is whether we are ready to speak up for social studies and take advantage of that opportunity.
Here's an idea for councils or a small group of NCSS members to try. Bring together colleagues and brainstorm three items:
- Successes of students in social studies, such as awards received and civic leadership conferences/trips attended;
- Accomplishments of social studies educators, such as teacher award winners, national/state leadership positions held, and media recognition for a social studies teacher;
- Contributions social studies students make to the school or community, such as researching and writing a history of the region.
When completed, list your successes on a card, laminate that card, and provide copies to local social studies educators or members of your council. Encourage people to carry this card and use it as a resource to speak up for social studies successes at every opportunity.
Send this list to people who need to know about social studies, such as school board members, local elected officials, state legislators, teachers in other subject areas, and the media.
4. Using Your Best Read Publications
It isn't necessary to start new publications to communicate a message. Sometimes it's best to simply ask yourself which current publications are read most frequently.
In many school systems parents can access school information and student grades through the school website. Some teachers also have their own class websites.
When e-mailing parents include a standard message that lists three or four successes or key points about the importance of social studies education. School districts or individuals can also do this. And don't forget to include the campaign theme.
Reach Out! Influence Students, Parents, Teachers, Board Members, and Others
This section contains a number of proven advocacy ideas that social studies educators can employ to communicate on a daily basis with their principal, superintendent and others. Some are geared for elementary schools, others for middle level, and still others for high schools.
If you are already doing some of these, keep up the good work. If not, consider trying one or two this school year. Don't do too many all at once and set yourself up for failure because you don't have enough time to do them effectively. Start small, succeed, and build on that success. Think of promoting social studies education as a long-term activity. And don't forget to add other ideas you know and share them with your colleagues.
Ideas to Reach Students
- Take an interest in your students.
- Create recognition programs for students.
- Establish a Mentoring program where older students work with younger students on social studies projects.
- Add the campaign theme to “Happygrams” given out to elementary students. Remember that many more people than students read happygrams--parents, grandparents and other relatives.
- Create a lesson on the historical importance of social studies education.
- Encourage foreign exchange students to speak to other classes, especially elementary and middle level students, to discuss their countries and cultures.
- Create a day when students can shadow an adult who works in a position that deals with social studies education.
- Invite speakers involved in social studies fields to come into your classroom.
- Send students to the senate/house page program at your state capital.
- Encourage students to attend a civic leadership program (i.e. National Youth Leadership Conference, People to People Ambassador Program, etc.).
- Form a civic learning group/club after school (i.e. Mock United Nations, etc.).
- Encourage community service projects where students work in the community to benefit residents and the community as a whole.
- Conduct a history project where students interview local residents about the history of the community. Publish a booklet on this history. Have students make presentations at civic groups about their findings.
Ideas to Reach Parents
- Make a positive phone call home each month to let parents know what students are accomplishing in your classroom.
- Include the advocacy campaign theme on written materials you give to parents.
- Include quotes on the importance of social studies in monthly newsletters
- Create a question of the month around the importance of social studies and ask parents the question in your newsletter or on the class or school website.
- Invite parents to special events in the social studies classroom during the year
- Establish an award for parents who have supported their student in social studies
- Post information on your class website regarding what students will learn in social studies during the year. E-mail parents inviting them to look at the class website.
- Publish a calendar of activities that families can complete during the summer and reinforce lessons learned in the social studies classroom.
- Take photos of students at work on social studies projects and send them home or put them on the school’s website. Be sure to check on your school’s privacy regulations.
- Make sure that parents know when their student(s) have been recognized. Send notes home, or even better, make a positive phone call home.
Open houses and back to school nights provide social studies teachers with a special time to communicate with parents. Parents come to hear about their students' progress, but you can also use these nights as an opportunity to create awareness of the new social studies. Consider using one of the handouts available for download from the website.
Consider how you can encourage parents to keep this information. One way is to include your phone number and e-mail information. You may want to include your school’s website and add key dates from your classroom that parents will want to know, i.e. project due dates, simulations parents can attend, awards presentations, etc.
Ideas to Reach Other Teachers and Classified Staff
- Ask for time at staff meetings to update teachers and staff on social studies happenings.
- Host an inservice with a powerpoint presentation to explain what is being accomplished in social studies education.
- Compile an annual list of successes in the social studies program share it
- Establish a "Trade a Class" program where you invite a non-social studies teacher to spend one of their prep periods in your class and you do the same in his/her class. Get to know what each other does.
Ideas to Reach School Board Members
- Try to schedule a briefing at the school board meeting on the important role of social studies education and how it leads to effective citizens.
- Recognize outstanding students at school board meetings on a regular basis
Ideas to Reach Others
- Create a business card for yourself on your computer, and on the back print the theme Today's Social Studies... Creating Effective Citizens
- Invite parents and the community to a History Day or We The People Competition, Mock Trial or other simulation that demonstrates what students know.
- Plan an outreach program to a senior citizen center where your students work with the seniors.
- Speak to key groups in your community about social studies education. This kit includes a sample speech that you can localize to make even more effective.
Influencing State Legislators
State legislators are key decision-makers that set state mandates and determine the level of funding for social studies education. Use the following ideas to influence a group of legislators.
- Meet with a key aide. Often it is just as effective to meet with a key aide as with the legislator. Due to the demands of their schedules legislators can't always attend events. When they send an aide, that person can become an important ally of yours. Legislators rely on aides for advice. Always send a follow up thank you to the individual you met with.
- Keep a constant flow of information going to legislators. They will make decisions about social studies throughout their elected careers. You need to consistently keep information in front of them.
Be aware of times when state legislatures are determining key issues. This is when it is most important to deliver specific messages relative to the issue being discussed. In most legislatures takes only 8 contacts to bring an issue to the table!
Councils may want to develop lists of all legislators in their state and pair members from their districts to those legislators. When an important issue comes up, encourage members to call their legislators and urge them to consider your viewpoint. It's a good idea for councils to develop message points for those efforts. Include direct links to the state legislator websites on your affiliate website.
Additionally, throughout the year, you may want to try some of these ideas:
- Become involved in legislators’ campaigns. You may want to consider volunteering in the campaign of a candidate you support. Host meetings in your home where candidates can speak to other educators or parents, knock on doors and distribute literature, answer phones and seal envelopes in their campaign office. It’s important to have legislators as allies.
- Social Studies Summit
- Invite legislators or their aides to talk with your class about how state government works or how people can become involved in government.
- Create biannual newsletter especially for legislators. It could include listing of student successes, reactions to current issues, and general information on the value of social studies. Include the campaign theme.
Media Matters: News Releases, Op-Eds, and Public Service Announcements
The news media play a major role in creating awareness of issues in communities across the country. This section presents some ways in which social studies educators can be more strategic with the news media to obtain accurate, objective coverage.
Connecting with the Media
Here are ideas that educators have used across the country to communicate with the news media:
- Whenever students receive awards in social studies, send out a news release on that accomplishment. Be sure to emphasize the campaign’s message in it!
- Invite reporters into your classroom. Involving journalists in your events shows them that you care. It is one more way to develop credibility.
- Involve journalists in other school activities, whether it's speaking at a PTA meeting or being the emcee at a school dance.
- Understand what makes news and provide story ideas to reporters. For example:
- A third grade reenactment of the Pilgrims' landing, scheduled at Thanksgiving
- A high school mock election
- A service project where students are working with senior citizens on a local history project
- The school's economic fair
- Creation of a unique map or mapping project
Two Rules to Keep in Mind
- Remember your long-range credibility. This attribute enables information you provide to be believed by a reporter, and it lasts a long time. If reporters see you as credible, they will seek your opinion and use your comments.
- Get to know the reporter covering you before there is a problem. Find out who covers the education beat locally, and give that reporter a call. Establish yourself as a resource. By doing this, you can become a spokesperson on social studies education.
- Understand that education is a tough story to cover.
- Be willing to be interviewed.
- Respect a reporter's deadline.
- Be honest.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, say so.
- Forget educational jargon when speaking with journalists.
- Never say, “No Comment.”
By practicing these guidelines, you are much more likely to have positive experiences with the news media.
When Reporters Make Mistakes
Sometimes even good reporters make mistakes. When a mistake is made, you should attempt to correct it, but how that is done is very important for your long-term relationships with the reporter.
- First, decide how major the mistake was. You should correct all significant mistakes, so they don't happen again. But for a minor error, simply inform the reporter the next time you are talking. With a major mistake, you may want to ask for a correction.
- Always start with the reporter when discussing an error. However, if you get no satisfaction with him or her and its important enough, you have the right to discuss the issue with the reporter's supervisor.
Writing a News Release
News releases are a standard way to communicate with both print and electronic reporters. You can consider them both to announce successes of your program and new events that are happening in social studies education. However, news releases should be sent only when you have information reporters want to receive.
When writing a news release, use the inverted pyramid style. Generally, the format is:
- 1st paragraph – Sum up the article / grab reader’s attention
- Next paragraphs – Detail and pertinent background information including “who” and “what” as well as anything that led up to the event
- If possible – add quotes from people involved
- Talk about why the event is important and relevant
- Final paragraph – summarize the article again
Writing an Op-Ed Article
An Op-Ed or Opinion Article is an opinion piece published in a newspaper, which often are written by someone who is not on that newspaper's staff.
What to Do:
- Determine whether newspapers in your area use op-ed articles.
- Decide roughly what you would like to write. Sample topics for this campaign might include: “What today's social studies includes”, “How social studies leads to effective citizens”, or “Success of social studies education”
- Phone the paper to find out who makes decisions about Op-Ed articles. It may be best to offer the article to the largest paper in your community on an exclusive basis. If that paper publishes the article, you cannot later give it to another paper.
- Write your article. To see sample Op-Ed articles visit Washington Post Editorial and Op-Ed Writers.
- Send or deliver the article to the Op-Ed editor. Include a cover letter on your school or council letterhead, thanking the editor for this opportunity. (If you mail your article, it's okay to phone the editor a few days later to confirm that the article has been received.)
- If your article is used, write a thank you note to the person who made the decision.
Using Radio Public Service Announcements
Public service announcements are messages aired by radio and television stations at no cost to the sponsors. Radio PSAs are powerful tools to create greater awareness because of the number of people who listen to radio while driving, in the office, working at home, weeding the front yard, etc. PSAs usually are 10, 15, 30, or 60 seconds.
To increase the likelihood that your PSA is selected, try the following:
- Develop a relationship with the radio station that benefits both parties
- Invite someone at the radio station to come to a class and talk about the news business. Radio people like to get into the community and usually will appreciate such invitations.
(This PSA is designed to be read in 30 seconds. However, depending upon the readying style of the announcer, there may need to be additions or cuts to fit the 30-second format. Work with the announcer to make those changes. Most radio and TV stations prefer the copy to be typed and in ALL CAPS.)
Meet with Editorial Boards
If there's one thing social studies educators should do as part of this campaign, it's to meet with editorial boards at your local newspaper. All newspapers have editorial boards, and they are the people that determine the position the paper will take in its editorials.
As newspapers cover school reform and curriculum changes, they are likely to editorialize on the value of certain subjects. By meeting with editorial boards now, you will assure that your viewpoint is on the table. Without such a meeting, an editorial could be written without your information.
Consider these steps:
- Phone the newspaper to determine who is in charge of its editorial board.
- Phone that person and request a meeting about the essential role of social studies and its value in creating effective citizens.
- Pull together a small, diverse group of people who can accompany you to the meeting. Include a social studies educator and perhaps a business leader, school board member, parent, and/or student. Each should represent a different viewpoint on the importance of social studies education.
- Determine the key messages that revolve around the campaign theme that you want to deliver. Do not deliver too many messages, or your most important points will be diluted.
- Develop a small handout packet on the importance of social studies to leave with them.
A few days after the meeting, send a thank you letter and reinforce the idea that you are always available to talk with them about social studies education.
Councils could consider organizing a plan to reach editorial boards at all major newspapers in their state as part of this campaign. The council president or other officers could participate in each meeting along with representatives from the local school system.
Be a Lead Resource
Often, national stories on education will be covered by your local media, but remember, local reporters like to have a local angle!
Whenever negative comments are delivered nationally, take the offensive to demonstrate to the news media why that is not the case in your community. Prepare your thoughts and give reporters a call to offer your views.
Building your own Resource Collection
In promoting social studies, a number may be worth a thousand words. Try to use numerical data to emphasize your points. For example:
- A 1999 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the public's attitudes toward the public schools indicated that 90 percent or more of the respondents believed that all students in public schools should be taught such values as democracy; acceptance of people of different races and ethnic backgrounds; caring for friends and family members; moral courage; and patriotism/love of country.1
Although few social studies practitioners would have time to read all the applicable research, it is very helpful to develop a resource center of research-related information that you can draw upon when the need arises. A resource center doesn't require a building or even a full room. It could consist of a few key journals or important information shared via newsletters.
Data on Testing
Testing data can be a very effective resource in advocating support for existing programs or arguing for new programs. Sources include:
* National Assessment of Educational Progress (also known as the Nation's Report Card) http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard.
* College Bound Senior Profile Report -- The College Board http://www.collegeboard.org.
* District and State Offices of Education publish reports on year-end testing
Attitudinal data can also be extremely helpful in supporting social studies. Some sources are:
- Gallup Poll of public opinion on public schools http://www.pdkintl.org
- The National Household Education Survey (NHES) http://nces.ed.gov/nhes
- The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher http://www.metlife.com.
- The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/heri.html.
- Contact local television stations and newspapers to find out if results of any polls related to education are available to the public.
The following are helpful sources of information on state policy:
- National Survey of State Requirements Course Offerings and Assessment in Social Studies http://www.socialstudies.org/cs4.
- Social Studies Standards and Curriculum http://www.indiana.edu/~ssdc/stand.htm.
- Internet Sites of the State Legislatures http://www.ncsl.org/public/sitesleg.htm
- Education Commission of the States http://www.ecs.org.
- Quality Counts http://www.edweek.com/sreports/
Other Sources of Information
- ERIC/ChESS (Educational Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Social Studies/Social Science Education) http://www.indiana.edu/~ssdc/eric_chess.htm.
- NCSS Position Statements http://www.socialstudies.org/positions
- Professional organizations -- A list of professional organizations may be requested from NCSS Information Services.
The following is a list of journals that may be useful in your resource center:
- Journal of Economic Education
- Journal of Geography
- Phi Delta Kappan
- Social Education
- Social Science Quarterly
- Social Studies
- Social Studies and the Young Learner
- Teaching of Psychology
- Teaching History: A Journal of Methods
- Teaching Political Science
- Theory and Research in Social Education
- Theory Into Practice
In addition, many state and local social studies councils publish journals. Each year a contact list of council journal editors is published by NCSS in "Who's Who in Social Studies: Directory of Regional, State and Local Affiliated Social Studies Organizations." Contact NCSS at 301-588-1800 to request a copy.
1Gallup, Alec M. and Lowell C. Rose, "The 31st Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan 81, 1 (September 1999), pp. 41-56.
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